Overcoming the challenges of empty nesting and divorce

The versatility of white vinegar in the home

vinegar for household cleaning

If you’re looking for greener ways to clean your home, you cannot afford to overlook the versatility of white vinegar. The acetic acid content of white vinegar makes it anti-bacterial, so it’s an important part of a green cleaning routine. It will disinfect and deodorize just about anything.

Realizing the potential of white vinegar was one of the first discoveries I made when starting my journey toward green and natural living.  I have realized that it does have its limitations as a general cleaner (my home smelled like a fish and chip shop for a while and I missed the easy cleaning power of a soap-based product).  I have since found some  homemade cleaning products that work for me. However, this does not take away from the versatility of white vinegar as part of my cleaning routine.

white vinegar

Stains and Odour Removal

  • Pre-wash: Fill a spray bottle with a 50-50 dilution of white vinegar and water for removing stains prior to washing. It helps with mustard and tomato sauce stains and even deodorant-stained shirts.
  • Old stains: Treat these with a solution of 3 tbsp of white vinegar, 2 tbps of green dishwashing liquid and 1 litre of warm water. Sponge the stain repeatedly and then wash.
  • Bloodstains: Pour undiluted white vinegar onto fresh bloodstains and allow to soak for 10-15 minutes before washing.
  • Ink stains: Vinegar cuts through oil and the main carrier of roller ball and ball point inks is castor oil. Blot the stain with undiluted white vinegar and then rub in a paste of two parts vinegar and three parts cornflour. Brush off excess paste once it has dried and then wash.
  • Bright whites: Clothes that have yellowed can be brightened up again by soaking overnight in a solution of 12 parts of warm water to one part of white vinegar.  Acetic acid won’t harm fabrics, but if the fabric is delicate, like lace, use a more diluted solution of 24 parts of water to one part of white vinegar.
  • Smoke smell: To remove the smell of smoke from clothing, add a cup of vinegar to a tub of hot water and soak them. Remove the lingering smoky smell when you’ve inadvertently burnt food by placing a shallow bowl about three-quarters full of white vinegar in the kitchen.
  • Onion odour: After chopping an onion, get rid of the odor from your hands by rubbing them with a bit of white vinegar.

Fabric softener, bleach and neutralizer

  • Fabric softener: The acidic nature of white vinegar cuts through grease and neutralizes the alkalis that form the base of many detergents, making it an effective fabric softener. Revive and make wool and cotton blankets soft by adding a cup of white vinegar to the wash’s final rinse cycle. It also helps to keep clothes lint and static-free.
  • Bleach: White vinegar is just as effective as chlorine bleach and has no harmful fumes.
  • Neutralizer: White vinegar breaks down uric acid so it’s great for rinsing underwear and baby clothes. If a child has an “accident” on a mattress, clean it with a solution of vinegar and water.

white vinegarCleaner and Descaler

  • Kettles and coffee makers: Limescale and mineral deposits that have built up can be removed with vinegar.  Bring 3 cups of full-strength white vinegar to a full boil for five minutes and leave in overnight. Rinse out with cold water the next day.
  • Cups: Remove stains from coffee and teacups by scrubbing them gently with equal parts of salt and white vinegar. Rinse clean.
  • Cast iron pans: Remove rust by soaking it in a 50-50 white vinegar and water solution.  Don’t let it sit too long or the acid in the vinegar will damage the pan.
  • Counter tops: Wipe down with a cloth dampened in a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water. It removes grease and disinfects.
  • Washing machines and dishwashers: Pour in about 1 cup of white vinegar and run the empty machine on full cycle. The vinegar cleans out residual soap scum, removes mineral deposits and keeps machines smelling fresh.
  • Irons: To remove scorch marks from an iron, rub with a mixture of vinegar and salt.
  • Microwave ovens: Put a microwave-safe bowl of 120ml vinegar and 1 cup water in the oven, and cook long enough to boil. This loosens baked-on food and removes odours.
  • Sticky label residue: Vinegar helps to dissolve many common adhesives. It will help get sticky label residue off products.
  • Windows: Vinegar removes grease and grime from windows. Wash them with a 50-50 solution of water and vinegar. Polish dry with newspaper for a streak-free finish.
  • Window blinds: Put on a white cotton glove and moisten the fingers in a solution made of equal parts white vinegar and hot tap water. Slide your fingers across both sides of each slat. Use a container of clean water to wash off the glove.
  • Silver, pewter, copper, or brass items: Dissolve 1 teaspoon salt in one cup vinegar. Add flour to create a paste (1/4 cup or more). Apply the paste to the  item, and let stand for at least fifteen minutes. Rinse with warm water and polish with a soft cloth.
  • Wooden furniture: If you have water condensation marks on wooden furniture, rub with equal parts vinegar and vegetable oil to remove them. Make sure you rub with the grain. Do not use with waxed wood. It can ruin the finish and leave a cloudy mark.
  • Rugs: If your rugs or carpets are looking dingy, brush them with a clean broom dipped in a solution of a cup of white vinegar and  3 and a half liters of water.
  • Carpets: Mix together 1 tsp. vinegar, 1 tsp liquid dishwashing soap and a cup of warm water. Pour mixture into spray bottle and spray mixture on stain. Allow it to soak into the carpet for a few minutes and then blot the wet area using a sponge.
  • Sinks and bathtubs: Scrub porcelain sinks and bathtubs with full-strength white vinegar, followed by a rinse of clean cold water.
  • Lavatory bowls: Disinfect and clean the toilet bowl by using 500ml of neat white vinegar. Pour it around the sides of the bowl last thing at night on a weekly basis.
  • Toothbrush holder: Get the grime, bacteria, and caked-on toothpaste drippings out of the grooves of your bathroom toothbrush holder by cleaning the openings with cotton swabs moistened with white vinegar.
  • Chrome and stainless steel fittings: Apply a light misting of undiluted white vinegar with a spray bottle and then buff  with a soft cloth.

CAUTION: Do not use vinegar to clean your smartphone and laptop monitors. Both have a thin layer of coating that limits smudging. Acidic vinegar can strip off this coating.


  • Cutting boards: Spray cutting boards with undiluted vinegar to remove surface residue before and after food preparation. It is effective against E.Coli, Staphyloccus and Salmonella when used neat.
  • Fridge: Use equal parts of white vinegar and water to clean your fridge, inside and out.
  • Cloudy glasses: Soak them for 10-15 minutes in a 50-50 solution of white vinegar and warm water.
  • Plastic food containers and vacuum flasks: Wash them in a solution of equal parts of white vinegar and water to get rid of stains and odours. For persistent odours, soak a slice of bread in vinegar and leave in the container overnight with the lid off.
  • Doorknobs and handles: Use a 50-50 vinegar-water mix to wipe down telephones, doorknobs, and other handles. This will help when cold/flu season hits.
  • Laundry: Adding a cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle of a wash, especially if it contains sports clothes, socks, and towels, will help to kill off bacteria.

Mould and Mildew

  • Grout: Scrub the grout between tiles with an old nailbrush or toothbrush dipped in white vinegar.
  • Shower curtains: Wash and then rinse with 120ml white vinegar in the rinse water.
  • Fridge: Use white vinegar undiluted to deal with any mildew or mould in corners.

Last word

Vinegar disinfects and deodorizes everything from shower curtains to cutting boards. Besides being effective, it is also cheap, non-toxic and widely available.  It’s definitely worthwhile using it as part of a green cleaning routine.

The best ways to deal with jet lag

jet lag

The world is divided into different time zones and when you fly to a new time zone, your body may experience a range of symptoms called jet lag.  This happens because your body is naturally programmed to do a number of things throughout a 24-hour period such as eating and sleeping, and these circadian rhythms as they are known, become disrupted. Body temperature, heartbeat, blood pressure and physiological patterns are affected and it takes a while for your body to adjust to a new light-dark schedule.

Risk Factors

A number of factors play a role in the severity of the symptoms experienced.

  • Time zones crossed.
    The more zones you cross, the more likely you are to feel the symptoms of jet lag.
  • The direction and timing of flights.
    When you fly east you ‘lose’ time which may be harder than flying west when you ‘gain’ time.
  • Flying frequently.
  • Being older.
    Jet lag has a more pronounced effect on older people and recovery is prolonged.


Symptoms vary from person to person and may include:

  • Disturbed sleep
    You feel wide awake at night and want to sleep during the day.
  • Lethargy
    Your ability to perform mental and physical tasks decreases.
  • Reduced alertness
    You may feel disorientation, confusion, lightheadedness and difficulty concentrating.
  • Digestive system issues
    A lack of appetite, nausea, constipation, indigestion or diarrhoea are common.
  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Muscle soreness
  • Headaches

How long does jet lag last?

It has been estimated that you need one day for every one-hour time zone crossed to get back to normal. So a five-hour time difference means that you’ll need five days to recover. Sleep disturbances can persist for as long as a week if the change in time zones is greater than eight hours.

Strategies to minimize the effects

You can’t prevent jet lag but you can minimize its effects.

Before you travel:

  • Plan your flights so you arrive in daylight. You will feel more like staying awake and adapting to a new schedule.
  • Change your sleep routine a few days before you travel. Go to bed an hour earlier if you’re flying east east and an hour later if you’re flying west. This approach is helpful for travel that lasts for more than a week rather than short-term trips.
  • Change the time on your clocks and computer a day or two before your flight to begin adjusting mentally.
  • Try not to be sleep deprived before flying – if you’re already tired, jet lag will make you feel worse.
  • Try to cut back your caffeine consumption a few days before your flight.

During the flight:

  • The dry air in an aircraft causes dehydration. Drinking plenty of non-alcoholic fluids prevents this. Water is better than tea, coffee and fruit juices.
  • Avoid alcohol. Alcohol can add to tiredness and cause dehydration.
  • Avoid caffeine. Remember that caffeine-heavy drinks include coffee, cola and energy drinks.
  • Eat light meals that are easy to digest.
  • Keep as active as possible.
    If you remain seated for long hours in one uncomfortable position, jet lag symptoms are often worse. If you keep stretching your arms and legs, you can also help to reduce your risk of developing a deep vein thrombosis (a potentially serious condition).
  • Try to adjust your brain to the timeframe of your destination.  Sleep if it’s night time there. Equip yourself with a travel set that includes a travel pillow and blanket as well as an eye mask, ear plugs and foldable slippers to help you sleep on the plane.   Travel Pillow and Blanket Set – Memory Foam Neck Pillow with Washable Velour Cover & Blanket, Contoured Eye Mask, Foam Ear Plugs, Foldable Slippers.

When you arrive:

  • Try to get into a new routine as soon as possible. Eat and sleep at the right times for your new time zone.
  • You may be tired after your long flight but do not nap as soon as you arrive. Try to stay awake and active until it’s the right time to go to bed to help your body adjust more quickly.
  • Spend time outdoors in natural light as this will also help your body to adjust. Sunlight affects your internal circadian clock and natural light exposure is ideal for helping it to adjust to a new daylight schedule.


Studies have been conducted on the potential of a wide array of prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) products to manage jet lag. Melatonin, and non-benzodiazepine hypnotics are just some of these.


Taking melatonin for jet lag is controversial.  Studies conducted on jet lag remedies containing melatonin show that it does appear to help some people but not all. Melatonin is a substance (a hormone and neurotransmitter) naturally produced by the body when it gets dark. It helps to inform your brain that it’s time for your body to sleep. At dawn your body stops producing melatonin, helping you to wake up.

Research shows that if you miscalculate when taking melatonin, it can make your jet lag worse. Some travelers do find taking melatonin beneficial, particularly when crossing five or more time zones. They take it on the day of travel at the projected nighttime hour in the new time zone and at the same time on subsequent days. Some even begin taking it one to three days before they travel to better acclimate to the new time zone.

Sleeping tablets

Some people take sleeping tablets to help relieve insomnia when flying. Taking a sleeping tablet on a flight can be unwise as you will experience little natural body movement and your prolonged immobility can lead to fatal blood clots. Sleeping tablets often have side effects too such as headaches and they are  habit-forming if misused.

Buying medicine online

Jet lag remedies are available online. However, you must be careful when buying medicine online. You risk getting products that may be substandard and unsafe, especially those that usually need a prescription. If you’re considering buying a prescription-only medicine online, rather consult your doctor. Various factors such as your physical condition, your age and your flight schedule need to be considered by your doctor when prescribing medication for you.

Of course, not all of the products sold online are unsafe. A natural product, such as Lewis N. Clark No-Jet-Lag Homeopathic Flight Fatigue Remedy is recommended by many frequent flyers. Its active ingredients are Arnica Montana (Leopard’s Bane), Bellis Perennis (Daisy), Wild Chamomile, Ipecacuanha and Lycopodium (Clubmoss).

Light Therapy

Light therapy is a natural way to maintain a routine sleep cycle. It can also help you change the times you sleep and wake. Light exposure regulates your body clock and being exposed to specific wavelengths of light for a prescribed amount of time at a specific time of day helps you to change when you feel tired.  Scientists have been researching light therapy for some time as a way to prevent jet lag without medication or adjusting your sleep schedule.

ReTimer light therapy glassesReTimer Light Therapy Glasses weigh much the same as a pair of sunglasses. They use blue and green wavelengths between 450 and 550 nano-meters, emitting 500 lux at the eye, similar to a 10,000-lux light box.  These glasses are produced by a University-owned company and there are 4 published test trials that back up their effectiveness.

Positive reviews on Amazon for this product:

Fantastic product for jet lag – review by an Amazon customer on July 25, 2016.

“Fantastic product. Used as per the instructions and jet lag calculator for trips to the US the last two years. I usually struggle with jet lag but this made a huge difference in adjusting to the time zone. Would definitely recommend!”

Great for jet lag – review on Amazon by Kathryn White on June 2, 2016

“I use my ReTimers every time I travel to manage jet lag. I used to find that it took me up to 2 weeks to get back to normal after returning from overseas and I was exhausted, even to the point of nearly falling asleep driving on way home from work. However when I use Retimers it now only takes me about one day to get back into our time zone. Much better than using any drugs. I have lent them to friends who have trouble falling asleep and they love them too.”

Last word

Jet lag can leave you feeling off kilter, cranky and lethargic for days. If you have business to do or simply want to make the most of your hard-earned holiday,  you’ll want to feel your best as soon as possible.  Fortunately, there are many strategies you can use to reduce the effects of jet lag.

10 ways to improve your property before selling and downsizing


You may have been living in your family home for years before you begin to think about downsizing. You have become so used to your surroundings that you no longer see your home in the same way as first time viewers will see it. Looking at it with fresh eyes and making some simple improvements can make a difference to its value. When potential buyers are looking at homes in your neighbourhood, you want your home to be the one that stands out for all the right reasons.

1. First impressions count

Make sure that your front garden looks its best – mow your lawn,  clean up beds, trim back hedges and sweep pathways. Stand outside your front gate and take a good look at your home.  What will someone who comes to view your home see first? Look at your front door and see whether it would be improved with a coat of paint or a wood stain. Even changing a door knob can help – a substantial-looking handle-and-lock set makes your home look more solid and secure. A couple of pots with colourful plants can really make a difference.


The entrance hall is also important as part of that first impression. You don’t want viewers to be confronted with piles of coats, umbrellas and shoes as they come in the front door. Tidy up all unnecessary clutter and make the entrance as welcoming as possible. A long, full length mirror in the hallway can make a typically narrow area appear larger and lighter.

2. Invite a realtor to look at your home

Sometimes when you have lived in a house for a long time, you become blind to its virtues and its flaws. It is helpful to see it through the eyes of another person. A realtor can help you to save you money by preventing you from making upgrades to your home that may be unnecessary from a buyer’s perspective.  You will get a better idea of what buyers are looking for in your area.

2. Declutter and clean up your living areas

It may sound obvious that you need to declutter and clean but doing so is the simplest way to make a difference. Make sure that curtains are fully open, allowing as much light in as possible. Tables and chairs should be free of clutter. Visual space counts to buyers and clutter immediately makes a room look smaller. During the years when you are raising children, objects have a tendency to accumulate in all the rooms – souvenirs, stacks of books and too many personal objects may get in the way of the buyer seeing the potential of the space.

Hiring a cleaner to give your home a thorough deep clean will really help it to shine. You can also give some attention to small details yourself such as getting rid of any marks on skirting boards and light switches, polishing faucets and making mirrors shine. A bit of shine is the best way to give a home an instant facelift.

3. Revamp your lighting

Paying attention to lighting is a great way to enhance a home’s appeal.  No buyer wants a home that’s dark and dingy. If you have old light fittings and unfashionable lamp shades, it is worthwhile changing them. Ceiling fixtures in a home you have lived in for many years are often dated and replacing them is a smart move. Think about installing some down-lights which are effective in most homes.  These days it’s also important to consider the energy efficiency of the lighting in a home. You can buy a 16-pack of Philips 461129 60 Watt Equivalent Soft White A19 LED Light Bulbs,  for only  $2.01 per bulb on Amazon.

Adding an eye-catching chandelier or two is a more costly way to add impact.

Pryor pendantPryor Pendant
from: Maison XXIV LLC

Trieste chandelier

Trieste Small Chandelier
from: Maison XXIV LLC

4. Take a look at your flooring

Funnily enough,  the floor is often one of the first things that buyers look at when they go into a home. If your rooms have carpets, having them professionally cleaned is essential. Smelly, dirty carpets will assault the senses of buyers and prevent them from seeing the good aspects of a room. If your carpet is showing some signs of wear, a simple fix is to cover the worst areas with rugs. Most estate agents do not regard it as necessary to replace carpets before selling but if they are really ancient and unsightly, it may be a good idea. Alternatively,  you could consider doing away with the carpeting and putting in laminated wood floors that are popular with most buyers and easy to care for.

Damask area rug

5. Add to your storage

Storage adds value to any home.  Add a freestanding closet or some extra shelving in any room that’s lacking in storage. Think about innovative storage solutions that will help you to make the most of space in bathrooms and kitchens. You can also do a great deal to improve existing closet space by buying organizers. The ClosetMaid ShelfTrack Closet Organizer available on Amazon is a  kit that includes wire shelving, brackets, closet rods, support rod, and all of the hardware for an easy installation.

closet organizer

6. Freshen up your bathrooms

A bathroom is one of the most important rooms to a buyer but it is also one of the most expensive rooms to renovate. Before you go crazy renovating with new toilets, showers, tubs and cabinets, there are some simple ways to make sure your bathroom is in proper working order and fresh in appearance.  Clean grout and remove any rust stains, replace chipped tiles, update cabinet handles and replace faucets. The Eyekepper Modern Single Handle Waterfall Bathroom Sink Faucet with chrome finish is a bestseller on Amazon. Installing a low-flush toilet is a good investment but even buying a new toilet seat can make a difference.

eyekepper faucet

7. Make your kitchen sizzle

In the kitchen, make sure it’s tidy and well organized by clearing surfaces of too many gadgets. Make sure all the shelves, racks and display cabinets are tidy and aesthetically arranged. A display of a few cookbooks on a counter is appealing.  You do not need to replace all your appliances – just make sure they are in good working order. It’s easy for sellers to go overboard with fancy granite tops and all new modern appliances that elevate the price of the home.

It pays to get creative with your current cabinetry. These days, many companies offer to revamp your kitchen cabinets by refinishing the cabinet boxes and adding new doors. If you are fond of DIY, you can even do this yourself but ordering your own replacement doors and installing them. Some people successfully paint their cabinet doors, add new handles and benefit from a new look at a minimal cost.  Just make sure it’s done properly if you do it yourself. By a 25 pack of Cosmas 305-030SN Satin Nickel Cabinet Hardware Euro Style Bar Handle Pulls on Amazon for only $42.99.

Cosmos cabinet pull

8. Paint

Painting is a relatively inexpensive way to freshen up your home. You may have painted a few walls in bold colours over the years or added some wallpapers that are no longer fashionable. Painting all the walls in neutral colours is the way to go, according to most estate agents. It’s worth the effort as buyers want to be able to project their own ideas onto a space. Of course buyers are also looking for character and if it’s too bland it will simply be boring.  My advice would be to avoid anything too outlandish and stick to soft colours that suit the particular style of the home.

paint swatches

9. Check your plumbing and electricity

Investing in maintenance and repairs saves money in the long run and could also be crucial to a sale. Hire an electrician and a plumber to come in and inspect your home before you put it on the market. Water leaks, faulty or loose wiring and other issues with your electricity and plumbing can really affect its value. You don’t want to give buyers the impression that the home has not been looked after.

10. Landscaping

Buyers will always respond to an attractive garden. Your yard is often a good indicator of how much effort has been put into the property and a messy or boring garden is not a good advertisement.  Investing in some new shrubs, paving, mulch and ground cover can really freshen up a yard and make it more inviting. Help the buyers to imagine themselves spending time outdoors by creating outdoor seating areas.   You can always hire a professional landscaper if you are daunted by the task.

outdoor seating

A last word

Our senses can play a big part when it comes to our impression of a home. If a home is messy, cluttered and smells of cat urine or worse, it will probably take a long time to sell. A home that is clean, fresh and well maintained is another proposition altogether. It’s not necessary to go overboard when fixing up a home to sell it.  It’s often simple fixes that work together to make it appealing to the buyer. Help them to imagine themselves living comfortably in your home and it shouldn’t take long to sell.




5 ways the internet can improve your life after 50

silver surfers

When I was much younger I used to consider 60 as the dividing line between middle and old age. Needless to say, as I grew older so my goalposts moved. I aim to live and thrive for years to come. I am grateful to be able to use the power of the internet and experience its benefits as I get older.  I am not alone – millions of older adults are finding that their lives are enhanced by using the internet.

(This post contains affiliate links. If you buy through my links, I earn a small commission that helps me to run this blog and you do not pay more when you do so).

The rise of “silver surfers”

It has only been 25 years since the World Wide Web was introduced to the public and in that time it has become part of everyday life for more than half the population of the world. The term “surfing the Internet” was coined as far back as 1992 by a university librarian, Jean Armour Polly. She had written an article and was looking for a title. She said “I weighed many possible metaphors. I wanted something that expressed the fun I had using the Internet, as well as hit on the skill, and yes, endurance necessary to use it well.” She was using a mouse pad at the time that pictured a surfer on a big wave. It said “Information Surfer” and this gave her the inspiration she needed. A metaphor was born that caught on and is still being used.

Most of us have heard about the fictional superhero, The Silver Surfer, of Marvel comic book fame. The term “Silver surfers”, on the other hand, is now used to refer to those of us over the age of 50 who use the internet consistently.  I like the term as it conjures up an adventurous ride through dangerous waters – so much better than being called a senior citizen and way better than being regarded an “oxygen guzzler” or a “wrinkly” who is “over the hill”.

Learn to use it or be left behind

For our children who grew up with the current technology, they cannot understand the challenge it presents for those of us who did not.  I grew up with typewriters, tipex and landlines. In those days I could not have even imagined backspacing to delete a mistake, carrying a phone around with me wherever I went and not having to press carriage return after every sentence.

In the early 2000s, the internet became an integral part of our social interactions with platforms like Facebook and Twitter becoming popular.  The online and offline worlds were becoming increasingly connected and as this happened, I think the realization began to dawn that the internet was not going anywhere. It was a case of learning how to use it or being left behind. At first the idea was intimidating but I knew I had to get my feet wet or I would never make it into the deep water. It was not difficult to pick up the basic skills. For those who resist learning them, it’s usually more about their mindset than anything else. Resistance born out of fear can prevent people from using the very tools that help them to retain their independence well into old age.

Using the power of the internet

Now,  I can hardly remember what life was like before the internet. I have become used to having a world of knowledge at my fingertips. When I do not have access to my laptop or cell phone, I feel as though a limb has been amputated. I have just had a weekend away with no electricity at all – I absolutely loved it but now I couldn’t imagine living that way permanently.

1. Keep earning after retirement

Current technology allows me to work from home as a writer. I am able to independently support myself no matter what my age and I can continue to work for as long as I wish.  When I first mentioned that I wanted to start a blog directed at people over 50, my children questioned whether anyone would read it. According to them, targeting this age group was a mistake. They thought I should rather focus on young people because they did not believe enough older people were ‘tech savvy’. I am glad to say that they were wrong ! I have discovered that “silver surfers” abound and I have been inspired, uplifted and informed by many over 50s blogs and social networking sites. Many people who have reached retirement age are no longer ready or able to take off their working boots and are using the internet to supplement their income.

2. Shop at the click of a button

How about grocery shopping from the comfort of your home on your iPad? No more queuing or physically walking around shops for hours. You don’t even have to waste petrol driving anywhere – your groceries can be delivered right to your door. I  recently discovered a local website that selects recipes for the week and packs all the ingredients needed to make them. You simply decide which meals you want to make and a package of fresh ingredients arrives at your door every week.

Some of us are caring for parents with mobility issues. For them, shopping for groceries online can be a godsend.  It can keep them independent and  and save you time.  It’s definitely worth investing in an iPad. The Apple iPad Air 2 is thin, light and capable, coming with a number of features  that are useful for older people – it has a wide screen size of 9.7″ and its retina display has great resolution and clarity making it easy on older eyes. For such a small package, the speakers also produce an oversized sound.

ipad for seniors bookIf you want to buy an iPad for a parent, seriously consider purchasing My iPad for Seniors (4th Edition) by Michael MIller. The book is a comprehensive guide to using all of Apple’s iPad models.  The information presented in this book is targeted at users aged 50 and up and the instructions are simplified with older users in mind.  In addition, much content specific for people 50+ is included.

3. Read reviews and compare prices

Another plus is to be able to read online reviews and compare prices before making a purchase. This is a great help for those who are retired and living on a budget as special deals are often available.  Perhaps you want to plan a holiday. You can compare quotes for various venues and find ones that offer special rates at certain times.  You are even able to compare travel insurance at the click of a button.  It is also helpful to read reviews before buying a particular product. For example, you can read up on the best travel suitcases for seniors before deciding to purchase a certain make.

4. Stay connected

Using email and social networking platforms allows you to stay in touch with those who are closest to you, despite physical distance and busy lives. In the past it was difficult to stay current with children and grandchildren. The gap tended to become wider and wider but this does not have to happen any more. Staying connected can help to keep isolation and depression at bay.

  • Email and text messaging are making communication more immediate.
  • Social networks like Facebook and YouTube make it easy to see current photographs and videos of family and keep up to date with birthdays and special occasions.
  • Technologies like Skype are invaluable in helping to keep communication with loved ones in far flung places at little cost.  I can keep in touch with my brother and sister in England and another sister in France for a fraction of the cost of a phone call. The added benefit of webcam video capability means that I can see them too – when we finally see one another in the flesh again, it won’t be such a shock.The Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920 is a best seller on Amazon with over 6,500 reviews. This flexible HD webcam gives a sharp, clear image, can be adjusted to aim anywhere and has a wide field of vision in a way built-in webcams can’t match.  

5. Stimulate your brain

It is easy to keep learning remotely and the internet provides many ways to keep your mind sharp. Research has proved that playing brain development games can help to keep you functioning effectively in your daily life for longer. You might find it surprising to know that many people between the ages of 50 and 65 are learning online and often do better than their more youthful counterparts.

Watching video tutorials related to your interests is another great way to learn – find out more about how to paint, garden, arrange flowers, cook, crochet and write. You never have to be bored ever again.

If you are no longer able to travel due to financial or health reasons, armchair travel is an option. You can explore the whole world by watching videos online. It’s not quite the same as the real thing but it certainly beats the boredom of sitting and staring at four walls.

“The excitement of learning separates youth from old age. As long as you are learning, you’re not old.” – R.S Yalow

Last word

It’s a myth that older people cannot overcome their fear of technology and benefit from being online. Perhaps it is more of a challenge for them to begin with than for younger people who grew up with the technology. However, many online websites and communities today are devoted specifically to those of us who are growing older. We can learn, have fun, challenge our brains, find new ways to pursue our hobbies and meet new people. Many “silver surfers” are finding that being online is helping to change the way they look at the second half of their lives.

What is the best essential oil diffuser?

Deciding which diffuser is most suitable for your needs can be confusing. These small units used to diffuse essential oils come in many models and styles.  Essential oils have many health benefits such as improving sleep, increasing energy and uplifting mood.  Using a good diffuser is key to getting the most benefit from them.

My interest in essential oils has begun recently as I started looking for more natural ways to improve my health. This triggered a need to look for a good diffuser. I was amazed to find how many there were to choose from, making a decision fairly difficult. In the process of my research, five diffusers made it to the top of my list.

The four different types of diffusers – ultrasonic, nebulizer,  evaporative or heat  – all function differently and each one has its pros and cons. A nebulizing diffuser dispenses a heavy concentration of oils but it is expensive, consumes more energy and has a higher noise level.  Essential oils work best when they are used cold which means evaporative and heat diffusers are less effective therapeutically.  When weighing up all the different criteria, it became evident to me that an ultrasonic diffuser was the best option for my needs.

What to look for in an essential oil diffuser

The design of a diffuser is probably the first thing that catches your eye. You can choose from a great variety of shapes and sizes. The tank capacity of a diffuser determines how long it runs. If you want one with a lengthy running time, you will need to look for one that holds more water in the tank.  Some diffusers can be set to run continuously or intermittently. An intermittent setting allows the water and oils to last longer. You will also need to find out the area coverage  – do you want to use it in a small or large space?  Some diffusers allow you to adjust the airflow to high or low. You will also need to consider noise level. Many diffusers are whisper quiet and you will hardly hear the buzz or the sound of water trickling whilst others are noisier. Light settings are another important factor.  On some diffusers you can even choose brightness levels, ranging from very dim to very bright.  Automatic shut-off means that the unit shuts off when the water tank is empty. Warranties and guarantees are provided by most manufacturers. The warranty is often for a year and most of them offer money back guarantees if you are not satisfied with the product. Find out how easy a diffuser is to use and to clean. The last thing you want is to struggle to fill and clean your diffuser, especially if you want to use a variety of different oils.

1. PureSpa Natural Aromatherapy Oil Diffuser

pure spa diffuser

Design: This ultrasonic diffuser is made of durable BPA-free plastics. It  has an angled top for more control of the mist and comes in soft, glowing colours. It’s portable so you can even take it with you when travelling.

Tank capacity: 100ml (3.38 ounces)

Mist Settings: A three-touch power button gives you the option of turning on the mist by itself, turning on the mist with the color-changing light, or turning off both.

Running time: Lasts for about 7 hours.

Noise level: It is nearly silent when running with a barely audible whir and occasional soft dripping noises from condensation falling back down from inside the cover.

Lights: It has soft color-changing long-life LED lights.  The changing lights slowly fade and rotate between white, green, blue, red and purple.

Automatic shut-off: Yes.

Ease of use:  It has only one button so it’s really simple to use. To fill the tank you simply lift off the the top, add water to the level on the tank and then add your essential oils.  An adapter, measuring cup and user manual are included.

This Pure Spa aromatherapy diffuser is backed by Pure Enrichment’s industry-leading 60-day money back guarantee for defective parts/products. You are also able to register your product on their website too so you get the latest updated information.


  • no beeping sound with auto shut-off so it won’t disturb your sleep.
  • Simple one touch button with three operating modes makes it easy to use.
  • Good aroma diffusing coverage and running time.


  • Unlike other diffusers, you cannot set the Pure Spa diffuser on one solid color of your choice.


2. Radha Beauty Essential Oil Diffuser


Radha diffuser

Design: This portable, ultrasonic diffuser is made of strong durable BPA free plastic and has an aesthetically pleasing candle-like shape.

Tank capacity: 120 ml (4.05 ounces)

Mist Settings: Continuous or intermittent mode. When changed to intermittent, oil and water is released at 30 second intervals.

Running time: It works for 3-6 hours, depending upon whether continuous or intermittent mode is used.

Noise level: It is very quiet and makes no gurgling sounds.

Lights: The long-life LED lights come in 7 colours and a button allows you to set the light to run through each color, set at one color, or turn the light off.

Automatic shut-off: Yes.

Ease of use: It is easy to open by twisting the globe in order to fill the tank.  It has clearly defined lines of water levels on the tank and comes with a measuring cup to ensure that you don’t overfill it.  An A/C adapter and a user’s manual are also included.


  • inexpensive and yet comes with some features that you find on more expensive diffusers.
  • You can choose to have the lights cycling, or settle on a particular light to set a certain mood.
  • 2 working modes – constant misting and intermittent misting
  • the extra 20ml tank capacity (other compact diffusers have 100ml tank capacity)  adds some extra running time.


  • It makes a beep when it turns off automatically (some people find this disturbs their sleep)
  • Even if you turn off the mood lighting, the indicator light remains on (this can also be a distraction for some).
  • It’s run time may not be sufficient for some needs.

This is a best-selling diffuser on Amazon with over 5,000 reviews.


3.URPOWER® 500 ml Essential Oil Diffuser – Humidifier

URPOWER diffuser

Design: This minimalistic, curved diffuser with a large tank  is made from BPA-free plastics.

Tank capacity: 500ml (17 ounces).

Mist settings:   Press the mist button and then choose a timer setting from 60 mins, 120 mins, 180 mins or ON.  There is a high/low setting to set the mist to disperse for a greater or less intensity (one beep for high, two for low).

Running time:  The continuous mist runs for 8 to 10 hours and when set on low it runs for longer.

Noise level: It operates quietly but does make a bit more noise when the water level is getting low.

Lights: The LED lights come in 7 different colors of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, and pink. Press the  light button to turn on the LED light and the color will change automatically. Press it again to fix the color. Press it again to change color. If you need to turn it off, long press the button for one second.

Automatic shut-off: Yes.

Ease of use: Setting up is easy. Simply open up an outer and inner lid and fill. It has a clearly marked water line in the tank and the side on which to drain the tank is also marked to avoid getting water in the air intake on the opposite side. If there is no water in the tank, the unit will not come on. You need to remember to plug in the power adapter before you put in the water. An adapter, user manual and a measuring cup are included.


  • 5-in-1 operations. It’s not only a diffuser but also a humidifier and can operate without oils. It purifies the air and acts as an ionizer to provide negative ions. Finally, it can be used as a night light.
  • With its capacity it is able to cover a wide area with a strong mist and run for a long time.
  • The timer is helpful when you don’t want to run the diffuser all day or all night.


  • Normally the diffuser works very quietly but it can make a bubbling sound when the water level gets low.
  • The large tank needs more maintenance.

This is another Amazon best seller with over 3,000 reviews.


4. InnoGear Real Bamboo Essential Oil Diffuser

Innogear bamboo diffuser

Design:  This diffuser has a  low key zen style. Its natural outer shell is crafted from exotic bamboo wood. It will add to the serenity of any interior and the other materials used are BPA-free.

Tank capacity:  160 ml (5.41 ounces)

Mist settings:  It has four working modes: Continuous mist (yellow)/ interval mist (red)/ 2 Hrs mist time (blue) / 1 Hr mist time (green).

Running Time:  It runs for up to 8 hours in continuous mode or 16 hours in interval mode.

Noise level:  Very quiet.

Lights: It has 7 LED lights (purple, dark blue, red, orange, yellow, green, light blue). On first press it cycles through the 7 colors, a second press fixes it on one colour and a third press turns the light off.

Automatic shut off: Yes

Ease of use:  Easy to set up. The lid is lifted off to fill up the tank.  You have to be be careful not to fill the tank above the maximum line or mist might be insufficient. Comes with adapter, measuring cup and manual. 


  • It doesn’t beep when it shuts off automatically.
  • Aesthetically pleasing appearance.
  • Great for nighttime use as the lights only show in a small strip and on top. It provides a little bit of light but not enough to keep you awake, unlike some other diffusers.


  • It does not have a low output setting for the mist – it is either a strong mist or intermittent puffs.

This new product is rapidly becoming a popular choice for many who appreciate its appearance and how well it functions.


5. Bellasentials essential oil diffuser


Design: Its bamboo finish gives it an elegant appearance. The wide, flat shape means it does take up more surface area than some other diffusers.

Tank capacity: 350 ml (11.83 ounces).

Mist settings:  The mist setting is on the right side. The first time you press it, it is in high mode. If you hit the button again, it changes to low mode.

Run time: Up to 8 hours in high mode or 12 hours in low mode.

Automatic shut-off: Yes

Noise level: Quiet – produces a slight hum while operating.

Lights: The 7 rotating colour-changing LED’s can be turned on/off or stopped on your favourite colour.  Press it once and it starts rotating colours, press it again to stop it on a specific colour and a third time to switch it off.

Ease of use: The inside of the tank lacks an obvious fill line, so you must measure your water prior to filling. An adapter, user manual and measuring cup are included.


  • the attractive finish fits in with most decor.
  • huge tank with predictably lengthy running time.
  • when it runs in lights-off mode, no light at all is emitted from the device.
  • colour-cycling LED’s are very soft and unobtrusive when trying to sleep.
  • bonus with your purchase – BellaSentials The Healing Power of Essential Oils eBook


  • Its main disadvantage is its cost. This is more expensive than many other diffusers.
  • It is not as portable as its peers.
  • You have to measure the water before filling it due to lack of obvious fill line.


Last word

As you can see, each diffuser has its pros and cons. I liked the aesthetic appeal of the Innogear Bamboo diffuser and the Bellasentials diffuser was the one I thought would fit in best with my decor.  The appeal of the URPOWER 500ml lay in its large tank capacity and running time.  I liked the fact that the PureSpa was so simple to use and it was compact and portable. The Radha was also inexpensive and yet it came with some features found on more costly diffusers.

Eventually I settled on the Bellasentials despite the higher price. I found it the most attractive of all the diffusers and liked the fact that it had a long running time.  However, my main reason for choosing it was because I want to use it in my bedroom and I am very sensitive to light and noise when trying to fall asleep.









16 popular essential oils and their health benefits

essential oil

Essential oils have been used for centuries for medicinal purposes. They are extracted from various parts of plants and trees – the leaves, fruit, flowers, bark and wood. Each oil has unique active ingredients, a distinctive aroma and the ability to support natural healing processes. These essential oils have powerful medicinal benefits, much of which lies in selecting the right oil for the right purpose.

Essential oils can be used topically in numerous ways such as mixing them into a carrier oil and massaging into the skin or using them in a bath.  They can inhaled in various ways too such as adding them to an indoor aromatherapy oil diffuser. Ingesting them is more complex and for many of them, this should be done under the guidance of a licensed health care provider. The list of essential oils is extensive, so to help you decide which ones to have in your home for diffusion and topical use, here is a list of 16 of the most popular essential oils and their main health benefits. This list appears in alphabetical order.

1. Bergamot

Bergamot essential oil

Bergamot is a delicate citrus plant that needs a special climate and soil for it to thrive. The rind from the Bergamot orange tree is pressed to release the oil.  It has a citrusy, floral aroma. It’s well known for its stimulant and relaxant properties and is also an antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral. It can:

  • calm anxiety and reduce stress. It contains relaxants that soothe the nerves.
  • uplift mood and stimulate systems such as the circulatory system and the digestive system.
  • help with infections of the skin and other parts of the body.
  • regulate peristaltic movement, reducing constipation and preventing gastrointestinal problems.


This is one of the oils that must be diluted with a carrier oil – if used in its pure form, it can cause the skin to burn. Note that it makes your skin more sensitive to sunlight – stay out of the sun. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements,  speak with a qualified healthcare provider before use.  Avoid contact with sensitive areas like eyes.

Did you know? Earl Grey Tea contains Bergamot. Change your brand to Earl Grey and your digestive system will benefit.

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2. Chamomile

chamomile essential oilChamomile oil is extracted from the flowers of the Chamomile plant. There are two types:  Roman or German Chamomile and the oils from each have slightly different uses. They both have analgesic,  antibiotic, and an antidepressant properties.  Chamomile has a light fragrance that is sweet and herbaceous.  It can:

  • be used for bruises, cuts, bee stings, boils, dry skin, acne and eczema.
  • help to alleviate stress, anxiety, depression, and irritability.


Do not use when pregnant or breastfeeding as it can cause uterine contractions.

Did you know? A drop of Roman chamomile can be used in a bath to sooth a child at bedtime.

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3. Clove

clove essential oilThe flower buds are picked by hand and dried until they turn brown. After grinding, they are converted to an essential oil. Clove has a spicy, woody, warm aroma and makes a great compliment to citrusy essential oil blends. It is known as the “protective” herb due to its antioxidant, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antifungal and antiseptic properties.  It can:

  • help to keep disease at bay and supports the health of your liver, skin, hair as well as your mouth due to its a high antioxidant count.
  • offer pain relief making it useful for insect bites, cuts and wounds and even ear ache.
  • relieve toothache and act as an antiseptic for all oral infections. It cleans the teeth and gums and freshens the breath.
  • help with fungal infections such as athlete’s foot.


Do not use when pregnant or breastfeeding as it can cause uterine contractions. Frequent and repeated application of clove oil in the mouth or on the gums can sometimes cause damage to the mucous membranes. Stop using clove at least two weeks before surgery as it slows blood clotting.

Did you know? It is a natural remedy to help get rid of acne.  Use 3 drops clove oil and mix with 2 tsp raw honey.

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4. Eucalyptus

eucalyptus essential oilEucalyptus essential oil comes from the leaves of the evergreen eucalyptus tree.  It has a fresh, minty aroma.  It has antispasmodic, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, decongestant, stimulant, and diuretic properties. It can:

  • treat fever and reduce body temperature which is why it is also known as ‘fever oil’.
  • help with a runny nose, sore throat, cold, cough, nasal congestion, asthma, sinusitis and bronchitis.
  • heal cuts, scrapes and sores.
  • relieve muscular aches and pains.  Rheumatism, sprained ligaments and tendons, fibrosis and even nerve pain can benefit from massaging with this oil.


Do not use when pregnant or breastfeeding.  Do not ingest in large doses.

Did you know? A few drops added to a compress and placed on skin affected by shingles can ease the pain associated with that condition, and may speed the healing process.

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5. Frankincense

Fankincense essential oilFrankincense has long been a prized and valuable oil, used for everything from perfume to salves for soothing skin. It comes from the resin of the Boswellia sacra tree and has a mellow aroma that combines earth, wood, citrus and balsam. It has many great health benefits due to its antiseptic, disinfectant, astringent, digestive, diuretic,  expectorant, and sedative properties. It can:

  • calm and soothe the emotions, slow and deepen breathing, helping to alleviate stress and anxiety.
  • reduce the appearance of skin imperfections. Topically, you can use it to improve scar tissue, cysts, insect bites, warts, boils, acne, cuts and scrapes.


If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements,  speak with a qualified healthcare provider before use.  Avoid contact with sensitive areas like eyes. Possible skin sensitivity.

Did you know? Diffuse this oil during meditation or a yoga ritual for an extra sense of wellbeing.

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6. Geranium

geranium essential oilGeranium essential oil is produced from the flowers and leaves of the Geranium. It shares many of the same traits as Rose essential oil and is often used as a substitute because it is not as expensive. It has an aroma that encourages peaceful feelings. It has been used for centuries for symptoms of menstruation and menopause and it has antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic and astringent properties. It can:

  • relieve sore throats and colds.
  • be used on cuts and bruises like any other antiseptic and cover with gauze for quick healing.
  • treat a variety of skin problems and  heal scars and dark spots.
  • soothe the stomach, bowels and intestines, helping to stop cramping.
  • increase the rate of urination, thus removing toxins. 


If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements,  speak with a qualified healthcare provider before use.  Some people can develop a burning sensation when it is applied to the skin. Keep away from sensitive areas of the face – it can cause eye irritation.

Did you know? Geranium provides an excellent cure for laryngitis. Put a drop on a sugar cube and let it melt in your mouth or gargle with a drop of the oil mixed in honey in a cup of cool water.

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7. Ginger

ginger essential oilThe essential oil comes from the rhizome of the ginger plant.  The oil is the most potent form of ginger and has many health benefits. It is best known as a digestive aid and for reducing nausea. It can:

  • help with morning and motion sickness.
  • reduce bloating, gas, and occasional indigestion.
  • help with poor circulation, colds, achy muscles and migraines


If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements,  speak with a qualified healthcare provider before use. Dilute with a carrier oil to avoid skin sensitivity.

Did you know? If you experience car sickness during a long trip, you can place a drop of ginger essential oil in the palm of your hand and inhale. Place a drop of the oil on a tissue and inhale to sooth a cough.

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8. Jasmine

Jasmine essential oilJasmine is an expensive oil extracted from the flowers of Jasmine and it has potent healing properties. Its fragrance is strong and sweet. It has antidepressent, antiseptic, antispasmodic and expectorant properties. It can:

  • stimulate the release of certain hormones in the body, including serotonin, which helps to uplift mood and increase energy.
  • prevent wounds from becoming septic.
  • help to clear congestion from the nasal and respiratory tracts
  • help you to fall asleep and stay asleep.
  • relieve any type of spasm, from intestinal cramps to spasmodic coughs.


Jasmine is not toxic but it can cause an allergic reaction to those sensitive to its properties. Do not use if pregnant or breastfeeding.

Did you know? Jasmine enhances the libido and can help cure problems such as impotency and frigidity.

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9. Lavendar

Lavender oil is extracted mostly from the flowers of the lavender plant. It has a sweet, floral scent. It is useful for its antidepressant, decongestant, anti-inflammatory, diuretic and sedative properties. It can:

  • soothe skin conditions like acne and eczema.
  • help with insect bites, minor burns and skin rashes.
  • help with headaches and nervous tension.
  • soothe, calm, relax and de-stress.
  • help with insomnia.
  • help with urinary and respiratory disorders.


If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements,  speak with a qualified healthcare provider before use. Possible skin sensitivity.

Did you know?

You can add this oil to bath water to soak away stress or rub it into temples and the back of the neck to relieve tension headaches. Add a few drops  to pillows or to the bottom of feet at bedtime for a good night’s sleep.

10. Lemon

Lemon essential oil comes from the rind of lemons. It’s powerful citrusy aroma has made it one of the most widely used essential oils. Its anti-microbial properties and fresh aroma make it popular for usage in household cleansers and air fresheners. Its health benefits come from its astringent, detoxifying, antiseptic, disinfectant, and antifungal properties. It can:

  • support weight loss.
  • decrease acid in the body and help with digestion.
  • improve moodwhen diffused, lemon is very uplifting and energizing.
  • dispel anxiety and nervous tension.
  • boost the immune system.
  • help with circulation and skin problems.


It is not toxic but can cause a skin rash in those who are sensitive to its properties.  It should be diluted with a carrier oil as it can burn the skin.  It is photosensitive so avoid going out in the sun after using it.

Did you know? Lemon oil helps to increase concentration and alertness. Rub the lemon oil on your hands and inhale it for a quick pick-me-up or use it in a diffuser in your office space.

11. Lemongrass

It is extracted from dried Lemongrass and has an aroma like lemon but milder and sweeter. It is useful for its analgesic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, antiseptic, astringent, antibacterial, diuretic, fungicidal, antidepressive and sedative properties.  It can:

  • uplift mood and relieve anxiety and depression.
  • reduce fevers and pain. It helps your body cope with cold and flu symptoms and is often used in in tea for this purpose.
  • knock out bacteria.
  • treat joint inflammation in conditions like arthritis and rheumatism.
  • increase urination and clean out the kidneys.
  • improve digestion and help with constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, bloating, stomach cramps and vomiting.


Some individuals may experience irritation when applying lemongrass essential oil to the skin. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements,  speak with a qualified healthcare provider before use.

Did you know? Lemongrass is good in a foot bath for aching restless legs.

12. Marjoram

The herb’s flowers and leaves are used for the oil and it has a warm, herbaceous, woody aroma. It is useful for its many soothing and curative properties – analgesic, antiseptic, hypotensive, diuretic and sedative.  It can:

  • relieve anxiety, depression, and nervous tension.
  • reduce the pain associated with colds, fevers and inflammation.
  • help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of strokes and heart attacks.
  • help with convulsions, pulled muscles, cramps, and muscular spasms.
  • increase urination thus lowering blood pressure and cleansing the kidneys.
  • promote digestion by stimulating the secretion of digestive juices in the stomach.


Do not use if pregnant or breastfeeding. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, speak with a qualified healthcare provider before use. For example, medicinal use can slow down the heart rate which is not good for people who already have a slow heart rate.

Did you know? Taking a sniff of Marjoram essential oil right before sleeping is thought to greatly reduce snoring.

13. Neroli

Each year the blossoms of the Seville orange tree are gathered to make essential oils.  Neroli is extracted from the flowers which are handpicked due to their fragility and the oil has a citrusy, floral scent. It is costly because it takes so many flowers to produce a small amount of oil – but a little does go a long way.   One of the essential oil’s most popular uses is for skin care as it maintains moisture and balance as well as fading scars and spots. It also functions as an antidepressant, antiseptic, disinfectant, sedative and antispasmodic. It can:

  • calm frayed nerves and give relief from anxiety, anger, distress and depression.
  • reduce blood pressure and improve mood.
  • improve skin elasticity.
  • protect wounds from infection.
  • give relief from spasmodic coughs, cramps, and relax muscles.


Do not use if pregnant or breastfeeding. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, speak with a qualified healthcare provider before use. For example, medicinal use can slow down the heart rate which is not good for people who already have a slow heart rate.

Did you know? If you’re going through menopause, Neroli can be very helpful to lower blood pressure, reduce stress, uplift mood and improve libido.

14. Peppermint

The peppermint plant is a hybrid of watermint and spearmint. It has a minty, fresh, herbaceous aroma. Historically, the oil is known for its health benefits, many of which have been proved because it has been used for so long.   Peppermint oil is also known to have powerful antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal effects. It can:

  • provide relief for numerous respiratory problems such as coughs, colds, sinusitis and asthma.
  • treat indigestion and promote digestive health.
  • boost energy and increase mental alertness.
  • increase blood circulation that helps to oxygenate the body’s organs and oxygenates the brain as well as boosting metabolism.
  • deal with bad breathe and help teeth and gums fight off germs.  It’s often used in toothpaste and mouthwashes.
  • reduce chances of fungal nail infections.
  • reduce the effects and frequency of urinary tract infections.


It can be irritating to the skin so it should be diluted with a carrier oil. Do not use if pregnant or breastfeeding. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, speak with a qualified healthcare provider before use.  Avoid contact with sensitive areas like the eyes.

Did you know? Massage your abdomen with a carrier oil that has a few drops of peppermint essential oil added to it to relieve stomach cramps and nausea. It relaxes the muscles of the gastrointestinal tract.

15. Rosemary

Earthy, refreshing, invigorating aroma.

  • treat dandruff, dry scalp, promotes hair growth and prevents hair loss.
  • boost memory, mental alertness
  • improve oily and dry skin, acne, eczema and skin tone.
  • reduce congestion and respiratory problems.
  • fight germs and ward off a cold
  • soothe aches, cramps and muscle tightness, headaches and migraines.
  • help with liver and digestive conditions.


Avoid use if pregnant because it can stimulate uterine contractions.   If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, speak with a qualified healthcare provider before use.  It can raise blood pressure so if you have high blood pressure you should avoid using it. Epileptics should also avoid using it.

Did you know? Rub Rosemary essential oil on your scalp for stimulation and circulation for better hair growth.

16. Tea Tree

Tea Tree essential oil comes from the leaves of a tree. It has a fresh, sharp odour  and is quite toxic if ingested. However, it has a whole host of external use benefits that have earned it the title of “medicine cabinet in a bottle”.  It is well known to boost the immune system and fight infection with its antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial qualities. It can:

  • soothe aching, tired muscles.
  • treat dandruff, lice, acne and other skin infections.
  • treat athlete’s foot and nail fungus.
  • soothe insect bites.


It should not be taken internally. Use it topically and in low concentrations.  Do not use it on serious cuts. Keep it away from eyes and the mucous membranes of the nose.

Did you know? Add a few drops to unscented shampoo to alleviate dandruff and psoriasis.

A last word

Remember that essential oils are powerful. They can interact with other drugs or aggravate rather than heal an existing health condition.  It is vital to learn about how they should be used and how much to use.  Consulting your health care provider before use is advisable if you are unsure. The above list should only be considered as a guideline, giving some indication of which oils are useful to have in the home.  Please remember, too, that if you have these oils in your home, keep them out of reach of children.

essential oil kit

If you are just finding out about the health benefits of essential oil and don’t know where to start, doTerra offers an introductory kit with a CD and a 5 ml bottle of Pure Therapeutic Grade Lavender, Lemon, and Peppermint essential oils for purchase on Amazon. essential oil beginner's kitThis also makes a great gift for someone you know who might want to start using essential oils.

Eden’s Garden offers a more expensive beginner’s set that includes 12 oils (Cinnamon Leaf, Eucalyptus  Grapefruit, Lavender, Lemon, Lime, Patchouli, Peppermint, Rosemary (spanish), Spearmint, Sweet Orange, Tea Tree). You save 25% by buying the set rather than selecting each oil individually. It comes with a handy brochure to help you make the most of your oil.




How to stick to your resolutions

keep resolutions

It’s a tradition to make New Year’s resolutions at the start of a new year, resolving to change our lives in some way.  We review the past year, beat ourselves up a little about what we failed to achieve and decide we are going to do much better in the year ahead.  We are going to eat more healthily, go to gym and get out of debt. By February, the rot has already set in. We’ve all been there and very few people appear to be able to stick to their resolutions. It’s fun to make them and even though we fail at them, we continue to make them. We have this innate optimism about the possibility of change. Knowing more about the inner workings of the brain can help us to understand why resolutions are so hard to keep and what we can do to change this.

Why does this happen?

The resolutions themselves are often vague – lose weight, make more money, get fit. Instead of focusing on one goal, we use the start of a new year to try and reinvent ourselves. Biology makes that very difficult as we are creatures of habit and it’s hard to change habits.

Another contributing factor is that the brain has spent centuries rewarding us with dopamine when we give in to our urges. Desires like eating and sex are encouraged by the most primitive parts of our brains because they prolong life. We get a rush from giving in to pleasurable urges, despite the fact that the more evolved parts of our brain tells us we will regret it.  So,  parts of our brain are set up to reward us for things that bring instant gratification but are bad for us in the long run. We sacrifice our long term goals for immediate gratification and this is why it is so difficult to diet, save or get fit.

Can your brain change?

Yes, it can, and it does.The human brain has about 100 billion neurons. “All that we know, all that we are, comes from the way our neurons are connected,” says Tim Berners-Lee who invented the World Wide Web. A single neuron may possess 10,000 or so dendrites through which it can interact with other neurons.

We remember things that are important to us and forget things that are no longer important to us. Of course, we all forget the occasional important thing like where we put the car keys but on the whole, we remember and learn things that are significant to us – that is, connected to things we already know. If we hear a new word in English and we already speak English, we are more likely to remember it than if we do not speak English. Babies learn to speak by repeating the same words over and over. We learn a musical instrument by playing the same sequence of chords hour after hour. Repetition seems to be important in remembering and learning things. Two crucial processes in the brain, therefore, appear to be making connections with things we already know and repetition.  To remember something or learn a new skill,  the dendritic connections between neurons is strengthened.  By strengthening the connections between large numbers of neurons, new knowledge is permanently connected to something we already know and a memory is laid down.  It’s amazing to think that whenever we read a book or have a conversation, it can cause physical changes in our brains.


The brain can constantly rebuild and rewire itself. By the strengthening of the connections between the neurons, the network that encodes what we know changes all the time. It makes new connections and loses some as well.  Think of the neural network like a thick hedge which is growing in places and being pruned back in others. The pruning occurs when connections are lost between neurons. Just as not exercising causes muscles to atrophy, not exercising the brain causes it to weaken or lose many of its existing connections.

Learning a new skill is a similar process to laying down a memory. Riding a bike, for example, requires using certain muscles. Strengthening of the dendrites that connect to neurons that control these muscles makes it easier to control them. Just as a memory is encoded in a network of neurons, a skill like riding a bike is too and it becomes hard-wired and automatic. This strengthening and weakening of connections between neurons or the creation of new connections to modify the network is known as neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity is central to understanding how the brain works. It explains how new experiences constantly rewire the brain. It explains how a stroke victim may recover lost facilities when the task of the neurons that have been affected are taken over by others. Rehabilitation is hard because reprogramming a stroke victim is similar to teaching a child a new skill for the first time. Is there an age at which your brain can no longer change? No, it is able to make new connections as long as you live.

Keep your resolutions

In his book The Brain that Changes itself, Norman Doidge explains that neuroplasticity is competitive – whatever you pay attention to takes up real estate in your brain. “When we learn a bad habit, it takes over a brain map, and each time we repeat it, it claims more control of that map and prevents the use of that space for ‘good habits,” he writes.

1. Choose measurable goals

If your goal is to be healthier, this is very vague. When you can’t quantify it in some way, there is no way to make yourself accountable. Choose something you can measure more easily, such as deciding you will eat one leafy, green vegetable every day. Make a vision board and keep checking back to see how far you have progressed. A vision board  helps to turn a vague goal into something more concrete. Get other people in on it too so they can help you to stay accountable. It also helps to meet or read about those who have successfully achieved a similar goal and find out how they did it.  Small, measurable improvements are far easier to achieve and maintain.

2. Set small goals

Make several small goals to achieve a larger goal. You have to look at it in the same way as you would think about training for a marathon. You would not be able to jump out of bed and run the marathon without training. You would have to start slowly and run a little further each day.

To successfully lose weight, for example, you have to do more than just make a decision to eat less. You would have to shop differently, change the way you cook and start exercising.

Perhaps you have a resolution to save more. If you have never been able to save, your first goal might be to save a small amount of money every month. Even if this is as little as $10 a month, and you did it consistently, you would begin to make saving a habit.

3. Use repetition

Your old behaviour comes with deeply rooted neuro-pathways. To achieve your new goals, you have to create new pathways. Repetition, as discussed above,  will create those new pathways. This may involve starting out every morning by reading your goals on your vision board out loud to anchor them in your brain. Place your vision board in a space where you see it often throughout the day. It helps you to constantly recapture the feeling when you first made those resolutions.

4. Make willpower less important

If money is automatically transferred from your current account to a savings account at the end of the month when you are paid, your goal of saving won’t have to depend on willpower alone. If you don’t buy sweets and keep them in the house, it’s easier to avoid eating them. If you don’t take your credit card when you go clothes shopping, you will be less likely to make impulse buys.

5. Make plans for moments of weakness

You may be very determined but there will always be moments of weakness. Think ahead to specific scenarios and how you normally respond to them. Come up with ways to cope in those moments so you won’t be derailed.  For example, buy healthy snacks to replace the junk food you usually snack on when you watch TV.

6. Visualise your future self

It’s easy to put off what is not essential to you in the present –  future wellbeing is sacrificed for present enjoyment.  When you visualize your future self, you can take all the small steps to bring that vision into being. For example, set an end date – such as your 60th birthday – and decide that at that date you will be in the best physical condition of your life.

7. Remind yourself why

Research has showed that if  you consistently remind yourself why you want to do something, it will keep you motivated. You may want to stay fit and healthy because you want to be able to enjoy your grandchildren.

8. Don’t forget to reward yourself!

Reward yourself for those goals you have achieved successfully. Acknowledge in some way what you have achieved as you achieve it.  You’ll feel good when you accomplish each small goal, and your success will help to keep you going.

Last words

Don’t let failure deter you from fulfilling your resolutions. Remember that the brain is capable of change and that there are ways to harness its potential. The more you realize this, the more likely you are to be able to stick with your goals and achieve them.

Short haircuts – women over 60

cutting hair

When your face and body are starting to show their age, it’s time to reassess that old hairstyle you’ve been wearing for years. A new style may be exactly what you need to make you look younger, fresher and more stylish. Hairstyles for women over 60 have come a long way and you can wear just about any style as long as it flatters your type of hair and features.

Women of 60 and older are carrying off casual, trendy, chic styles with ease today. They are confident about their individual style and have come to know what looks best on them. They don’t have to settle for boring or matronly and with the trend for even young women to dye their hair gray, there is no better time to take the plunge and go gray.

Finding the best hairstyle when you are older means taking a good look at your face and seeing where it is most affected by ageing. If you have lines on your forehead, think about styles that will cover them up. Perhaps it’s the lines around your mouth or a sagging jawline you want to disguise. You also need to take into account the colour and texture of your hair.

Is short or long hair the way to go?

long gray hairSome people have the perception that long hair is for the young and as you grow older, your hair should be shorter. A number of older women are wearing long, gray locks very successfully today and have shown that this is not necessarily the case. The truth is that some hairstyles make us look older than others but it’s not so much to do with length and more to do with styling and care. However, the majority of women still tend to opt for a shorter style as they get older.

Your hairstyle needs to:

short haircuts over 60

  1. Emphasize your good features
    Layers will draw attention towards a good feature by ending at the same level. For example, chin-length pieces will draw attention to your smile. As you age, you want people to pay more attention to your good features than to your lines.
  2. Boost volume
    Your hair tends to get thinner as you get older. Layering and highlights add volume to hair and open up the face. Feathered layers with light, wispy bangs will help to disguise the fact that hair is thinner than it used to be. Using a very dark colour on your hair is too harsh and can make you look older.  Add multi-tonal, face-framing highlights instead.
  3. Draw attention away from lines and wrinkles
    Wear bangs to hide forehead wrinkles effectively and draw attention to your eyes. However, thick, straight-across bangs are too severe –  go for light and wispy instead. Even something as simple as using your part in the right spot can take years off your face. A slightly off-center side part is often more flattering.
  4. Firm up your jawline
    Layers that are chin-length in front can give the illusion of angles where they are needed.
  5. Flatter your face shape
    A cut should always flatter your face shape, no matter what your age. A round face is wide and long so you need to create an illusion of more length. Angular layers around the face create this illusion. An oval face means your brow, cheekbone and jaw width are almost equal and you can wear many different styles.  If you face is square, you want to soften the features around the chin. Lots of layers and movement can soften harsh lines. A bob with texture and layers will help to widen a long, narrow face.

Choosing a flattering cut

Cuts that are very blunt with geometrical shapes and lines can be ageing.  If you’re going to do short hair, most older women look better with some softness. Softer lines, wispy bangs and waves are more forgiving.   The pixie and the bob are two short styles that have been around for some time but hairstylists are interpreting them in so many different ways that everyone is sure to find one that suits them.

The Pixie

graduated pixieAs far back as the 1950s Audrey Hepburn wore a pixie cut in her debut film Roman Holiday and in the 1960s Mia Farrow and Twiggy helped to popularize the style. Today women of all ages opt for pixie cuts because they are so easy to maintain. They can go from spiky to soft and anything in between. Judie Dench has a short, sassy pixie cut. Halle Berry wears a spiky pixie with style. Some pixie styles are a little harsh on certain women. You can ask your hairstylist to customize a pixie specially for you using a  length, texture and colour that will suit your face shape and personality.

Spiky pixie

Hair is spiked on top to give height.

Sleek pixie

Hair lies flat and the top is longer than the sides.  When parted to the side the look is chic and asymmetrical.

Soft, textured pixie

Sweeps forward and frames the face with long pieces left in front of the ears.

The Bob

If you want short hair but don’t want to to go as short as a pixie, a bob is one of the most flattering options for women over 60. There are hundreds of variations on the bob . Helen Mirren is the queen of ageing gracefully and over the past 10 years she has worn many different variations of the classic bob.

asymmetrical bobStacked or angled bob

Go for an angled bob that grazes the bottom of your jaw in front and gets progressively shorter toward the back. The volume at the back modernizes it and the angle helps to give definition to the jawline.  If you have fine hair, edges cut in a straight line makes it look thicker. If you have coarse hair, soft layers keep your bob from looking bulky.

Soft, wavy bob

A bob with soft, wavy layers give great dimension and has a youthful edge.

Choppy layered bob

A choppy bob highlights the jawline and draws attention to the cheekbones. The layers add volume and fullness.

Last word

A good hairstyle that really suits you can take years off your age. Remember that taking good care of your hair and cutting regularly is even more important when you are over 60 as your hair is thinner and more subject to split ends.   With a good hairstyle and regular upkeep, you will look your best no matter how old you are.




An empty nester’s guide to cooking for one

cook for one

When nearly two decades of shopping for food, planning meals and cooking for a family have taken up a large percentage of your time, adjusting to cooking for one is difficult. It’s tempting to rely on ready-cooked meals and neglect healthy nutrition. This is one of the worst possible times to stop eating healthily. Your body requires better nutrition than ever when you are experiencing stress due to changes in your life. Fortunately, it is not that difficult to improve the quality of your diet in ways that do not require that much effort.

Shop wisely

shopping for oneShopping for a family is very different from shopping for one.  When I first started shopping for one, my mindset hadn’t yet adjusted and I still tended to buy for a whole family.  My fridge was always full of rotting produce. I had to learn to cut down drastically on what I bought. I would also buy impulsively without any proper planning.  It just seemed like too much effort to plan when it was just for me.  I found a simple formula that helped me. Using this formula, I regularly buy certain items on a weekly basis that I enjoy eating and that mix and match easily.

Don’t think that you only have to buy small portions of protein. I love roast chicken so I tend to buy a whole chicken, roast it on a Sunday and then I use the leftovers to make chicken salad or chicken wraps during the week. A roast beef also lasts the whole week and can be used in many creative ways.

Other than your weekly purchases, it helps to stock up on long-lasting staples like tins of beans, chickpeas, brown rice etc. Think about what basic staples you usually use to make your meals and always keep them in stock.

Still cook your favourite recipes

Just because you are only cooking for yourself does not mean you can’t use those favourite recipes you have collected over the years. You can simply reduce the ingredients by dividing. Of course, it’s easier to do this with some recipes than others – try dividing one egg!. It also may seem like hard work to always have to bring out your calculator – it’s probably better to sit down one day and do all the work at once. Remember that if you divide the ingredients, you also need to  adjust the cooking time (I learned this the hard way!).

Find recipes for one

Today it is easy to find a number of sites that offer interesting recipes for one. Jamie Oliver’s site caters for solo cooks with Meals for One Recipes. I also enjoyed these 29 insanely easy healthy recipes for one.

Many cookbooks today are also devoted to cooking for one. Going solo in the Kitchen by Jane Doerfer contains over 350 simple recipes. It also contains strategies for buying to save on wastage. She gives detailed advice on storing foods too – cooked chicken, for example, tastes better and has better texture when stored in liquid (like a broth or a sauce).

cooking for one

Make friends with your freezer

When you live alone it makes sense to utilize your freezer, buy microwave-friendly containers and perhaps even a food vacuum sealing system.  This allows you to make large quantities and then freeze portions for easy meals at a later time. You can still make the lasagna or pot of soup you used to feed your whole family and easily divide it into smaller meals and freeze them. You’ll find that you spend less time in the kitchen, but still enjoy healthy, home-cooked meals.

Scale down your utensils

mini sauce panIt pays to invest in some smaller pots and saucepans. A small amount of food is lost in a large pot or pan and the food is more likely to dry out or burn. Why not keep a notepad in your kitchen for a while –  it may be interesting to jot down what cooking pots and pans you actually use. Do that for a week or two and you will soon be able to decide what you don’t need anymore. Pack these items away for a while and if you don’t miss them, get rid of them. You can always keep a few larger pots for cooking for friends and family.

Enjoy ‘grown-up’ food

Foods, like salmon or steak, that were once too expensive to buy in quantities may suddenly be within your budget. Make simple meals with some fancy ingredients.  Truffle oil, for example, turns an omelette into a gastronomic delight.  You can also phase back into your diet the ‘foods that your family may not have enjoyed but that you love. I hardly ever cooked butternut because my son hated it. I love butternut soup so now I can make a large pot, freeze ‘me-size’ amounts and eat it whenever I feel like it.

Use more spices, herbs and condiments

Dill, chives, sage, rosemary, coriander, ginger and dry mustard can transform plain food. Using them also means that you will tend to use less salt. Items like pesto, sun-dried tomatoes or Dijon mustard can also change ordinary food like pasta, tuna, or eggs into appealing, fast meals.

Store food safely and reheat correctly

Don’t store your food in old containers. Buy certified BPA-free reusable microwavable meal prep containers with lids, label and freeze. When reheating food in the microwave, make sure you don’t leave cold spots where bacteria can thrive. Stir and rotate the food while reheating.

Take a Cooking Class

If your cooking skills have been focused for many years on cooking for a whole family where your repertoire consisted of hearty soups, stews and casseroles, it may be fun to take a cooking class. It can do a great deal to revive your interest in cooking and open you up to new tastes. I attended a cooking class where the theme for the week revolved around a specific country.

Breakaway Experiences Hands on Cooking Class in Ottawa, Canada - $120/person for 3 hours

A final word

You still have to make food – it’s just that the way you think about it and do it has to change. Change your mindset, plan more, buy less, cook less and you will find that it’s easy to still eat healthy, nutritious meals.


When you need help in your empty nest

empty nest struggle

Feeling mixed emotions when your children leave home is perfectly normal. Even those who thought they would handle the transition with ease may find it is more difficult than they expected. Some grieving is bound to occur. An empty nest often comes at the same time as various other challenges such as caring for ageing parents, divorce, retirement, lack of finances and menopause. This often compounds the problem.

Dr. Carin Rubenstein, author of Beyond the Mommy Years: How to Live Happily Ever After…After the Kids Leave Home  reveals in her book how and why some mothers thrive and others do not. She did some intensive research and breaks down the time after the children leave the nest into three stages – grief, relief and joy. Most parents will go through the stage of grief and move on.  However, there are some who just cannot seem to stop grieving.

Who will find an empty nest more difficult?

  • If you are a single or divorced parent, you will usually find it more difficult. There is no-one else at home with whom you can share your initial grief and no-one to partner you in attempting new activities. Someone in a bad marriage may have exactly the same problem.
  • Empty nest grief is particularly prevalent in – but not exclusive to – women. It tends to occur mostly in women because traditionally women have been the primary care givers to children.
  • If you have already had problems with depression or anxiety in your life, an empty nest can precipitate a recurrence.
  • If you gave up having a career and stayed at home to look after your children, the gap in your life may feel huge when mothering becomes less hands-on.
  • You may have a lack of self-esteem that results from focusing exclusively on your children at the expense of your own personal growth.
  • If you battle to handle change, rather than looking forward to it and regarding it as a challenge, you are more likely to be affected.

However, it is always difficult to predict who will be most affected – sometimes a career woman may feel it just as much or more than a stay-at-home mom. Some men have voiced publically how much the empty nest has affected them – they are certainly not immune. For most parents, it  does take some time to adjust. You need to allow yourself to work through the grief. It is probably best not to rush into decisions like starting a new career, selling a home or buying a puppy. It does get better as you start to work through your grief, begin to make the most of your new freedom and enjoy the company of your adult children when you do see them.  However,  those who are simply unable to move on need to seek out help.

Signs that you may need help

  • You always feel sad
  • You are tearful throughout the day
  • You don’t have the energy to try new interests
  • You don’t even want to do the activities that you looked forward to doing when you had more time
  • You feel a lack of purpose in your life
  • You feel lonely and isolated

Negative ways of coping

A profound sense of loss that does not go away can make you vulnerable to an identity crisis,  depression, alcoholism,  and marital conflict. If you do not receive help, you might find yourself trying to fill the gap in ways that only make your situation worse in the long run.

Relying too heavily on your children

Sharing your grief with your children makes them feel guilty and puts unnecessary pressure on them.  It also makes it  difficult for them to talk about their own feelings for fear of making you even more upset. It is much better to talk to a trained, impartial professional if you are really battling.

Abusing alcohol

Research in the UK suggests that mothers whose children have left home are driving Britain’s alcohol epidemic. Their alcohol intake increases once their children fly the nest. They consume alcohol every day and often on their own.  They seem to think because they do not binge drink, they have nothing to worry about. Drinking offers them a temporary escape and helps them to numb the grief for a while. Unfortunately, the effect soon wears off. This often leads to more alcohol being consumed to achieve the same effect and dependence may develop.

Eating problems

It’s not surprising that eating problems may develop in an empty nest. Experiencing an overwhelming sense of loss often disturbs eating patterns. You may need to learn  how to enjoy eating alone after spending years eating with the whole family. There may be a tendency not to eat properly because you no longer have to prepare large family meals.  It is also easy to overindulge in comfort food to fill the gap and suffer from all the health problems related to being overweight.

Online liaisons

You may be so lonely that you look for love in all the wrong places. I have seen a number of adverts on Craigslist where men target women in an empty nest and offer them everything from a listening ear to a Spa-like massage treatment.  Some lonely women have become involved in online liaisons and this often opens them up to exploitation.   Meri Brown of Sister Wives admitted that this happened to her. This reality TV star is part of a polygamous family with four wives and 17 kids and said “usually, when people go through having an empty nest, it’s a couple doing this together, but in a plural marriage that’s not the case.”


When you feel that life in your empty nest is unbearable, don’t be afraid to find professional help.  Talking to a trained counsellor can help you get to the root of your feelings and move forward.

Natalie Caine  is the founder of Life in Transition which provides Empty Nest Support Services. She helps empty-nest families and is available for individual and phone consultations.

Counselling Directory – connects you with professional support if you live in the UK.

http://www.internationalcounsellingdirectory.com is a  worldwide counselling directory for all services, professionals, organizations on an international scale.

Talking  to others going through the same experiences can also help:

Join an empty nest support group online.

Join a Facebook empty nest support group.




Layering lighting in small spaces


People have many reasons for choosing to live in a small space. Empty nesters, for example, often make the decision to downsize when their children leave home. The challenge is to live in a smaller space as effectively as possible without feeling cramped and claustrophobic. The last decade has seen an increasing understanding of the value of lighting. Planning it properly, choosing the right elements and using new, innovative technology can do much to transform a small home and make it a haven. Lighting has become crucially important to the appearance of a room and the mood of its interior.

1. A chandelier

A chandelier can play a key role in defining the style of a small space while providing functional lighting.  Just because a space is small does not mean you can’t have a chandelier. Its effect will depend on how you choose the size, shape and style to suit the space.  In a small open-plan apartment, a stunning chandelier hanging over the dining area can help to define the space. It will draw your eye upwards too, always a good idea when floor space is limited.

2. Table lamps

A room usually has a main source of light in the form of a ceiling light. This should not be your only source of light, even if a room is small. Adding table lamps enhances the atmosphere and they can play a variety of different roles such as providing light for reading or lighting up a dark corner.  Lamps made of organic materials like stone, wood, metal and glass are very popular today.

3. Pendant lighting

Emphasizing vertical height makes a small room look bigger, especially if it has a high ceiling.  A long pendant hanging downwards takes the focus off the width of a room by leading the eye up and down instead of horizontally. Pendant lights above a kitchen island or table capitalize on this idea and provide functional lighting at the same time.

4. Floor lamps

When choosing a floor lamp for a small room, you need to be conscious of scale. It should relate to the size of the room and the other furniture. You also need to be aware of where you will place it as well as its style and practicality. A well-proportioned floor lamp with a small base can enhance your decor and the overall lighting of the room without taking up too much floor space.

5. Wall sconces

Wall sconces are versatile and one of the most popular ways to use them is for accent lighting. They can highlight a work of art or turn a special architectural feature into a focal point. Twin sconces lend visual balance to a room – place them on either side of a chimney breast or a sofa.   Sconces work well in corridors to provide ambient light too.  If your small space has high ceilings, place them a little higher than normal to draw attention to the height.  Those that do not extend too far away from the wall are probably best for a small room.

Flooding a room with too much harsh light will destroy its ambience. Too little light makes it dull and uninspiring.   Through lighting, you have the opportunity to make your small rooms look inviting and to direct attention to what you want people to notice in your home. Lighting energises any home and compliments its other decorative elements. Layering your lighting by using different sources of light will give you more control over the atmosphere of the room and allow you to create the right mood for the right occasion.

Over 50? Eat these 20 useful healing foods

As we age, the food we eat can make a great difference to how our bodies function and cope with the ageing process. Our metabolism is gradually declining and what we eat becomes vital to ongoing health. Foods with a high nutrient content need to take the place of those that are not beneficial to our health. We need to be aware of foods that can help to lower our blood pressure and cholesterol as well as protect against disease.  All of the 20 useful healing foods on the list below are not difficult to find and relatively inexpensive to buy.

1. Apples


If you have room for only one tree in your garden, plant an apple tree. Eating apples daily is good for your heart and can lower both total and LDL cholesterol.  An apple contains soluble fiber that helps with digestion and maintains healthy blood sugar levels. Eat those peels too because they contain ursolic acid which is believed to help build muscle mass and reduce fat accumulation.

2. Artichokes


Globe artichokes are good for all liver complaints and gallstones. They lower cholesterol, relieve fluid retention and are excellent for rheumatism, arthritis and gout. Artichokes are underrated when it comes to their antioxidant benefits – a serving contains more antioxidant benefits than other foods like dark chocolate and red wine we normally think of as rich in antioxidants.

3. Bananas


Bananas are nature’s magic fast food. The fiber, potassium, vitamin C,  B6 and zinc content are all good for heart health. They also promote the health of the digestive tract. Studies have shown that the amino acid called tryptophyn they contain plays a role in boosting mood and preserving memory.

4. Beets


Beets do have the highest sugar content of all vegetables but most people can safely eat them a few times a week and it’s worth including them for their potent health benefits. They contain phytonutrients which lower blood pressure, boost stamina, lower inflammation and help with detoxification.

5. Berries


Berries are being studied for their potential to boost the brain and slow down age-related memory loss. They increase blood flow to the brain and reduce inflammation. They are also are high in soluble fiber, helping to lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar.

6. Carrots


The betacarotene in carrots is converted into Vitamin A by the body which is good for the eyes, excellent for liver problems and great for healthy skin. They also contain antioxidants that protect against heart disease and lung cancer.

7. Garlic


This is a king of healing plants – antibacterial, antifungal and good for everything from bronchitis to athlete’s foot. It lowers cholesterol, blood pressure and improves circulation.

8. Grapefruit


Grapefruit is a rich source of vitamin C so it helps to support the immune system. Pink and red grapefuit contains lycopene, a carotenoid phytonutrient and research suggests that this can reduce the risk of getting prostate cancer. Eating a grapefruit before each meal will help you to lose weight as it speeds up the metabolism, helps break down fats and reduces appetite.

9. Kiwi


Kiwis are very rich in vitamin C, fiber and vitamin E, and contain lots of potassium. They aid digestion, boost the immune system, help manage blood pressure and can even protect your eyes against macular degeneration.

10. Leeks


Leeks were highly prized by  ancient civilizations. They are beneficial for all breathing problems, are cleansing and diuretic, and excellent for gout, arthritis, and rheumatism.

11. Legumes


Research shows that eating a daily serving of beans or lentils can help to lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Beans and lentils are complex carbohydrates with high amounts of soluble fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. They are good for the digestive system and protective against cancers, particularly of the bowel.

12. Lemons


Lemons help to strengthen the immune system, cleanse the stomach and purify the blood. They help with indigestion and constipation and can be used to treat throat infections and dental problems as well as respiratory disorders. They are beneficial to the hair and skin and help with rheumatism and high blood pressure.

13. Nuts


Make a habit of snacking on nuts instead of cookies and chips and you will feel the benefit. They are full of nutrients – minerals like selenium, zinc, iron, lots of protein, healthy oils and the B vitamins.  Eating an ounce of mixed nuts daily reduces the risk of heart attack, stroke, and death from heart disease. Fresh, unsalted nuts should form a part of everyone’s diet.

14. Oats


Adding a cholesterol-lowering food like oats into your diet is smart. It contains a soluble fiber that reduces total and LDL cholesterol levels.  It is also rich in protein, healthy fats, vitamins E and B and minerals.   Plain oats is inexpensive and other healthy ingredients, like nuts, seeds, and fruit can be mixed with it.

15.Olive Oil

olive oil

An extra-virgin olive oil is high in monounsaturated fat. It helps to  lower cholesterol levels but do remember that it is high in calories so be careful not to overuse it. It helps to improve blood sugar control and is rich in vitamin E which protects against cell damage. It is also good for liver and gallbladder problems, protects against arthritis, senility and some cancers.



Onions are from the same family as leeks and garlic. They are important in the treatment of all chest infections and should be eaten by anyone with high blood pressure, raised cholesterol, or heart disease. They are an excellent food for for those suffering from anemia, asthma, urinary tract infections and even hangovers.

17. Salmon


Salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids.  These have been proven to reduce the risk of heart attack and help lower blood pressure. If you can get hold of wild salmon instead of farmed salmon, they contain fewer calories and less fat. This protein improves bone density and strength as well as being beneficial in the treatment of inflammatory joint conditions. Eating salmon can also  reduce the risk and incidence of depression and cognitive decline. Salmon is also a good source of vitamin D, an essential vitamin for optimal health. It’s selenium content helps keeps tissues healthy, preventing cell damage.

18. Spinach


Popeye knew a thing or two as spinach is full of nutrients. Its potassium and iron content are important for regulating blood cells and blood pressure. It is high in carotenoids which helps to prevent age-related macular degeneration. It also contains vitamin K which helps to strengthen bones.

19. Watercress


Watercress is high in vitamins A, C, and K and very low in calories. Like its relatives – cabbage, broccoli, sprouts and turnips, it is a great protector against cancer, rich in potassium and a type of mustard oil. It is powerfully antibiotic, without killing off natural bacteria, helps with urinary infections and is also a good stimulant of the thyroid gland.

20. Yoghurt


A  live yoghurt helps digestion and  provides essential nutrients such as calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and zinc. Live yoghurt is rich in beneficial bacteria that boost the immune system and protect against fungal infections.  It’s not just any yoghurt that will do – some of the yoghurts in the supermarkets are more like desserts than health food with plenty of sugar and high levels of fat. Of course, if you make your own yoghurt, you know exactly what is in it and its not as difficult as you may think.




What is Candida and do I have it?

Candida Albicans

The term Candida is used to refer to the Candida Albicans fungus. It is a common yeast that exists in small colonies in your gut.  Do you have it? Yes you do. Everyone does. The idea that Candida does not belong in the body and you have to rid of it is not true. Candida has a function in the gut as it consumes debris. It prevents other harmful bugs from feeding on this debris and growing stronger. It is kept under control by the other microorganisms in the gut. When the healthy balance in the gut is disturbed, Candida can start taking over and that’s when it becomes a problem.

In the 1980s three books were written that did much to introduce the topic of Candida to the general public.   Dr. Orion Truss published his book The Missing Diagnosis with the idea that Candida overgrowth could trigger reactions that affected the whole body—even the brain. In 1983 Dr. William Crook’s  book The Yeast Connection  helped to popularize the idea and The Yeast Syndrome, by Dr. John Parks Trowbridge was also influential in spreading the concept.

The Candida controversy

The idea popularized in the 1980s was that once Candida overgrowth occurred in the gut, it leaked through the intestine wall into the bloodstream, causing a wide variety of symptoms such as bloating, allergies, fatigue, brain fog and muscle aches. In 1989 when I started suffering from a bewildering array of symptoms just like these, it was no wonder that Candida was suggested as a probable cause of my problems.

The  medical community at this time recognized Candida infections that were visible such as thrush and vaginitis. The idea of Candida spreading throughout the whole body and causing a multitude of health problems was unacceptable to most of them and they dismissed the idea as a ‘fad’.   One difficulty they had was that the symptoms were not just related to Candida and could apply to many different conditions. Another problem was that there were no diagnostic tests for the condition.

Since the 1980s, an entire industry has developed, focused on providing help for those who believe that they are suffering from what is called by many different names – “Candida overgrowth syndrome (COS)”, “Candida Related-Complex” or “Candidiasis”.  Some medical doctors now believe that  the effects of Candida overgrowth can be systemic although the infection itself is not. They agree that  toxins produced by Candida overgrowth can be  absorbed into the blood stream and reach all parts of the body.  However, many MDs still do not acknowledge that Candidiasis exists.

What is being revealed in current studies is that there is more to what goes on in our gut than we realize. Research is showing that an imbalance in the gut (dysbiosis) can contribute towards a wide range of health problems. Many researchers believe that studying what takes place in the gut can provide us with many answers to disease.  Understanding more about how to develop and maintain the balance in the gut may lead to changes in the way we manage our health and even prevent some diseases from developing.

What triggers a Candida problem?

Any situation in which the healthy balance of bacteria in the gut is disturbed can allow fungus and certain bacteria to take over. Some of the triggers are:

  • Diets high in refined foods and sugar
  • Stress
  • Antibiotics
  • Hormones – use of oral contraceptives or oestrogen hormone therapy
  • A compromised immune system or drugs that suppress immunity (like corticosteroids)
  • Diabetes

How can I find out whether I have a Candida problem?

Patient assessment

Before useful laboratory tests existed, diagnosis depended upon taking a medical history, checking out risk factors such as antibiotic use and filling out questionnaires or symptom checklists. Today there are other ways of diagnosing Candidiasis but an assessment by a doctor can still help as a way of establishing how likely it is that you have Candida overgrowth and whether laboratory tests are necessary.


According to the National Candida Center, self-testing can give you some idea as to whether you may need further testing. They suggest the following tests:

  1. What food do you crave? If you crave packaged, processed, refined foods loaded with sugar, it can mean you’re feeding the ‘yeasty beasty’.
  2. A spit test. Spit into a glass of water first thing in the morning before you eat, drink or brush your teeth. This test  is supposed to show the density of your fluids. Your spit should float on top of the water and if within 15 minutes you see strings extending downward into the water, you may have Candida overgrowth.  Saliva that is cloudy and sinks to the bottom of the glass is another sign.
  3. Review a list of 80 symptoms to see if they apply to you. A vast array of symptoms are listed. Those specific to the gut, for example, include constipation or diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, irritable bowel syndrome, persistent heartburn and bad breath. Mental problems may include brain fog, difficulty concentrating, irritability and mood swings.

Self-testing is not adequate on its own for a proper diagnosis and these tests are hardly scientific. They can perhaps indicate a possibility of the existence of Candida overgrowth but that is all.

Laboratory tests

In the 1980s when the concept of Candidiasis became popular, it was not possible to go for reliable laboratory tests to determine whether you had it or not. This is not the case any longer and various tests can be conducted:

A comprehensive stool test

A comprehensive test where samples of stools are taken for several days will give a good idea of what’s going on in your gut. It will uncover bacterial, fungal and parasitic overgrowth in the gut as well as levels of good bacteria.

A urine Test

A Urine Organix Dysbiosis Test determines the level of  D-Arabinitol. This is a waste product of Candida and high levels indicate Candida overgrowth.

A blood Test

A Candida Immune Complexes test or Anti-Candida Antibodies test can be done where the blood is examined for specific antibodies related to Candida overgrowth.  If antibody levels are high, there is a strong likelihood that Candida overgrowth is present and your body is reacting to it.

You can find out more about specific tests here.

How to beat the Candida problem

There are hundreds of options for treatment of Candidiasis – diets, prescription drugs, and all kinds of natural antifungals and probiotics. One of the major difficulties when treating the problem is to choose what will be effective for you. There is no common consensus on the perfect treatment.  There is consensus, however, on the fact the approach needs to be multi-faceted.  The Candida overgrowth has to be dealt with,  friendly bacteria restored to help keep it in check and a healthy balance maintained in the gut to prevent re-occurrence.


The idea of an anti-Candida diet is to exclude sugar in all of its forms so as to starve the Candida, causing it to die off.   For this reason the diet normally includes a long list of foods to avoid. Fruit, sugar, grains , alcohol, dairy, starchy vegetables, dairy products, coffee and even carbohydrates that are not easy to digest are excluded.

A diet based on non-starchy vegetables, high-quality proteins and gluten-free grains such as millet and brown rice is usually suggested.  Avoiding fruit  is also commonly recommended although many believe that sticking to low fructose fruit such as lime, grapefruit and lemon is better. They see no reason to eliminate all fruit from the diet and feel that it can be counterproductive because of all its benefits.

The very low-carb aspect of most anti-candida diets has also come under fire. One problem mentioned is that very low-carb diets lead to ketone production and studies show that neutrophils (white blood cells) are not as capable of killing Candida when ketones are present. Another area of debate is whether or not healthy fats should be included.

As long as you follow a diet that excludes sugar and starch, you will be going a long way towards making it easier to kill Candida overgrowth.


Antifungals help to kill off Candida overgrowth. You can make some progress with diet, but you also need to use an antifungal.  Antifungals should not be taken for too long or they start killing off all the beneficial yeast in the body that protects against bacterial overgrowth. Resistance is also a problem and researchers to starting looking for alternatives to conventional antifungals.

Natural antifungals

You may prefer to use natural antifungals because no prescription is required and they are readily available. They are generally considered to have fewer side effects and some of them are very effective.  It’s probably worthwhile attempting a natural approach first to see if it works for you.

Some natural antifungals are:

  • Oregano Oil
    Oregano Oil has been found to be highly effective in treating Candida overgrowth. The easiest way to add it to your diet is probably in gel form.  Liquid phyto-capsules are available from Gaia Herbs.
  • Aloe Vera
    This can be taken in the form of Aloe Vera juice or a capsule. It is gentle on the body, yet helps to control Candida and stimulate the immune system.
  • Caprilic Acid
    This is one of the three fatty acids found in coconut oil. It is available in gel capsules and acts as a potent antifungal. Gradual release, buffered Pure Encapsulations Caprylic Acid  allows the antifungal properties to work properly in the intestinal tract. 
  • Garlic
    Many studies  support the use of garlic as an antifungal. The major advantage is that garlic is easy to include in your diet and can be used as a compliment to other antifungals.
  • Grapefruit Seed Extract
    Studies have found that Grapefruit seed extract performs better than many other antifungals.  Grapefruit seed extract is available as a liquid concentrate.
  • Olive Oil and Olive Leaf extract
    Olive oil and olive leaf extract contain a plant chemical with excellent anti-fungal properties. It also  stimulates the immune system and helps stabilize blood sugar levels.
  • Horopito Leaves
    In 1982 scientists discovered that an extract from Horopito leaves found in New Zealand and used by the Maori population as a medicine, was rich in the natural antifungal polygoidal. It has proved more effective at killing Candida than some commonly used pharmaceuticals.  Kolorex Advanced Candida Care contains polygodial from the Horopito leaf. It can be taken together with probiotics so that while it is busy destroying unwanted Candida, the probiotics are re-establishing healthy bacteria and creating an environment that reduces Candida overgrowth. It comes in a softgel capsule that’s easy to swallow and does not leave a bad aftertaste.

Before using antifungals, even natural ones, it is important to check with your health practitioner whether it’s advisable. Certain prescription medicines and chronic conditions preclude using some antifungals.

Prescription Antifungals

Diflucan and Nystatin are two common prescription antifungals. Nystatin was the first widely used antifungal and it is effective against Candida without killing off other beneficial bacteria.


Probiotics are used to re-introduce healthy bacteria into the gut. The healthy bacteria form colonies that prevent the Candida from getting out of control, regulate the acidity in the stomach and help to boost the immune system.  There are thousands of commercial probiotics to choose from. Some of the considerations when choosing one is how many billions of bacteria are found in a capsule, how many strains it contains and which ones they are (Lactobacillus Acidophilus is a popular strain). One that is recommended is the Healthy Origins Probiotic  which is a blend of eight friendly bacteria strains and it’s resistant to stomach acid. Prescript Assist, a soil-based probiotic. is another good choice.

Probiotics usually come in supplement form but there are some foods that act as probiotics. Fermented foods like kefir and sauerkraut contain lots of ‘good bacteria’. One of the most popular probiotic foods is live cultured yoghurt.

What else can you do?

You can try to avoid other pre-disposing factors as far as possible. Don’t take antibiotics, steroids, or hormones unless absolutely medically necessary. Candidiasis is difficult to diagnose and confusing to treat. Even if you are diagnosed with Candida and diagnostic lab tests show a current Candida infection, it is not a straight forward issue like finding out that you have a broken limb and putting it in a cast. My conclusion is that the only real way to know if Candida is causing your symptoms is to follow a course of treatment. If your symptoms improve, they were most likely to have been caused by the Candida.


5 practical gift ideas for elderly parents

gift ideas for elderly parents

It is often difficult to come up with gift ideas for elderly parents who have accumulated many possessions over the years and are more keen on getting rid of stuff than accumulating more.  What do you give to those who think they have all they need or want?

Stay ‘in the loop’

My elderly mother has a computer but finds anything more than basic emailing overwhelming – and she is one of the few in her retirement village who even owns a computer. The elderly can easily become depressed or anxious, especially when they feel isolated and ‘out of the loop’. I’ve seen this happen at times to my mother as all three of my siblings and their children live in other countries. She wants up to date photos of her grandchildren but she can’t print them out. She also finds social media upsetting and confusing.

Presto Printing MailboxThe Presto Printing Mailbox, an email printing service, is great for the elderly who do not have or want to use computers. It is plugged into a phone outlet (it has to be an analog line) and automatically retrieves messages via the phone line and prints them out as easy-to-read e-letters with any photos or other attachments.

The account can be managed by a relative who sets up a list of email addresses that are allowed to send email to the Presto account, thus eliminating spam and phishing emails. Installation involves plugging in the phone line and power cord, installing the cartridge and putting in the paper. The receiver does not have to learn how to do anything as the sender simply sends the email, photos and other documents to the Presto-provided email address and it prints out automatically.

The costs involved are purchasing the HP Printing Mailbox and paying a monthly subscription.  The only other expenses are replacing the paper and the printer cartridge.

Family and friends can send their parents not only emails with photos but interesting articles and even crossword puzzles. This can make a huge difference in the life of a computer-challenged elderly person. 

In the lightlumisource touch lamp

Arthritis makes limited mobility in the hands a common complaint of old age. A touch on, touch off lamp is easier to use than having to search for a switch to operate a lamp.

The LumiSource touch lamp can be  turned on by simply touching anywhere on its metal body. Touch it again to adjust brightness from low to medium to high. The cone-shaped shade of frosted glass help to diffuse the light and direct it downward. This lamp can be used on a bedside table, in a study or a living room.  It’s not just practical but more elegant than many of the other lamps of this kind.

Cooking safely

A portable induction cooktop is a practical gift for an older person. Induction cooking is very safe as there is no direct heating of the surface.  When a piece of magnetic material, such as a cast-iron skillet, is placed in the magnetic field generated by the element, the field transfers energy into that metal. The transferred energy causes the cooking pot to become hot.  As soon as the cookware is removed, the molecular activity stops and the surface cools rapidly. As it heats up and cools faster than traditional gas or electric cookers, it is more energy efficient.

The cooktop can be plugged into any standard household outlet and in situations in which a hotplate could be dangerous, an induction plate is a much safer and more sophisticated option.  Spilled food does not burn as only the pot gets hot so it is easy to clean.  A good induction cooktop offers a range of cooking temperatures and can be easily programmed. It also includes an automatic shutoff function when cooking is completed, a real advantage for an elderly person whose memory may not be as good as it used to be.

Relieve aching muscles

An electric pillow massager is a great gift for someone who experiences aches and pains on a daily basis. The Shiatsu massager has four deep-kneading nodes that will work on knots, aches and muscle tension.  A heating function gives further relief, enhancing blood circulation.

The ergonomic design of this massager means it contours perfectly around lower and upper-back, neck, abdomen, thigh and calf  areas.  Adjustable straps allow it to be strapped to a favourite chair or even a car seat.  All the user has to do is sit back, switch it on and enjoy the relief it brings. The pillow massager is sturdy and powerful but lightweight and sleek too. When used regularly, it can really loosen up stiff muscles.

The device is equipped with an overheat protection device and programmed with 20-minute auto shut-off. Neither your elderly parent or the device itself will suffer harm from overheating.

Find those keys

key ringerThe Keyringer Key Finder is an excellent and reasonably priced gift idea – and not just for elderly grandparents!  This product is great for locating keys that are hidden in plain sight such as under a couch cushion or under a car seat.

The key finder comes complete with lithium batteries, key chain links, and double-sided adhesive strips. The battery usually lasts as long as 18 months and is easy to replace. When the battery is low, the KeyRinger will beep and flash.  It is a  very durable product, made of the same material used in bullet-proof windows. It also has a corrosion resistant gold plated circuit board.

Two KeyRingers are included and they are ready to use right out of the package – no setup or programming required. There is also a full 90 day, no-questions-asked, money-back guarantee and a two year warranty.

Simple Homemade Gifts

If your budget does not stretch as far as giving one of the above gifts, never underestimate the ability of homemade gifts to gladden the heart of an elderly person. Quite often it’s not about the gift at all but the sentiment that matters. Even a tin of homemade cookies or a wicker basket filled with snacks is often much appreciated. Here are some other simple, cost-effective ideas that can bring joy:

  • A framed print of a grandchild’s artwork
  • Knitted gloves and a scarf
  • Bottle of homemade jam
  • Custom gift basket filled with lotions and other beauty care products or gourmet snacks
  • A cozy blanket or throw

Do you have any great gift ideas for elderly parents? Share your comments below.



Are you meant to be a writer? Ask yourself these 12 questions

are you meant to be a writer

You may or may not have wanted to become a writer from an early age. Perhaps you only felt the urge to begin writing much later in life. Fortunately, it’s never too late to start. If you are still having doubts as to whether you are meant to be a writer, ask yourself the following questions.

1. Did you want to be a writer when you were a child?

Every child gets asked the question “What do you want to be when you grow up”.  I imagine not many of them answer that they want to be writers. For those who have always loved to write, even from a very early age, they probably don’t suffer the same doubts as the rest of us.  However, they are in the minority and many of us find ourselves as adults still asking questions about our purpose in life. For some of us the signs were probably there from childhood in subtle form – a love of books, a keen ability to observe and a tendency to be introspective. For many, the road to becoming a writer is a long and winding one and it can even take decades to manifest as a reality.

2. Do you love to read?

Not everyone who loves reading is born to write but writers are usually avid readers. Do you admire great writers and dwell on the beauty of their prose?  Do you wish you could write like them? Do you love reading because it inspires you and exposes you to new ideas and different ways of thinking? Do you have a fascination with words?  When you come across a word you do not recognize, do you try to decipher its meaning from the context of the sentence and then check it in the dictionary to see if you are right?

3. Do you feel you could live your life without writing?

Is something missing in your life when you don’t write?  If you feel that it’s not a vital necessity for you to write, you probably shouldn’t. If you have a need to write and to express yourself through the written word, it’s torture to imagine a life without writing.  It would be like trying to live without a vital part of yourself.

4. Can you handle rejection?

If you want to be a writer, but you can’t handle rejection, you are not going to go very far. Rejection stings and writers tend to be a sensitive bunch. It’s hard not be become disillusioned when you’re turned down. You have to remember that being rejected does not necessarily mean your writing is bad or has no value.  Rejection is based on another person’s opinion and that person isn’t always right.  Most great writers have had a couple of rejections along the way. On the other hand, you must be open to receive constructive criticism from those you trust and respectYou need to highly value any honest feedback that can help you to understand what’s good about your writing and where you need to improve.

5. When you’re writing, do you forget to eat and sleep?

Do you become so wrapped up in your writing that you lose track of time?  Have you ever found yourself sitting at the computer churning out words long after everyone else has gone to bed?  When you’re in that timeless, creative zone, the last thing you do is worry about your bodily needs.  You become extremely focused on what you are doing to the extent that all else fades into insignificance.

6. Do you feel a yearning to write?

Many writers feel a deep yearning to express themselves. That yearning does not go away, despite practical worries, fear of what other people will think and the knowledge that success as a writer is not guaranteed. If you have that yearning, follow it and see where it takes you. Forget about your inadequacies and excuses. Some of us manage to suppress the yearning to write for years but it rarely disappears – it merely goes underground and demands attention again at a later stage.

7. Are you prepared to put in the practice to improve your skills?

“Write a thousand words a day and in three years you will be a writer.”
– Ray Bradbury

All writers improve with practice and some may need more practice than others.   If you continue to write, even if you don’t feel like it, you will begin to stimulate a flow a words. Even when you least feel like writing, do it anyway. Just get those words out – it may be surprising which words become the important ones. It takes practice to find your voice and style.

Everything involves sacrifice, including writing.  Are you able to stay up all night writing to meet a deadline? Are you able to handle the loneliness that comes with shutting yourself away for hours at a time from other people? Writing a thousand words a day may seem difficult at first but with practice it’s not hard at all.

8. Are you prepared to study?

As an aspiring writer, are you prepared to study writing techniques?   Perhaps you feel that all you need is that desire to write and that you do not need to learn any skills. Imagine if an artist did not want to learn about proportion, shape, lines, texture, contrast and colour mixing?  Learning the skills involved in writing does not mean sticking to a formula that restricts your creativity. In fact, it can unleash your creativity. Imagine a pianist trying to write a new song without knowing any notes.

The most riveting writing can be hard to read when it contains basic grammatical errors. In this digital age, we tend to be lazy about grammar. Even if our grammar skills are lacking we have tools to help us eliminate unnecessary errors. Much writing today is published without going through the hands of an editor so it’s important to pay attention to grammar.  People may be put off in the first paragraph by your sloppy writing and never read your heartfelt essay.

9. Do you have something to say?

Do you have things inside you that you want very badly to communicate to people and writing is the best way to do it?  It’s good to learn writing skills but your writing needs to come from a compulsion to communicate. People will respond to your passion rather than to writing that’s simply a vehicle for showing the skills you have mastered and how clever you are.

Do you want your words to make a difference in the world and impact people’s lives? Research shows that if you want to live happily and healthily, you need to focus on more than just your own fulfillment. That feeling of making a difference is important. Our world has many problems that need addressing –  global warming, racism, sexism, governmental corruption, domestic violence, lack of basic resources. If you have something to say about a particular problem, writing about it can contribute towards making a difference. Of course, you are not going to fix the problem by your writing alone but your words can help to draw attention to an issue and inspire people to try and solve it.

10. Are you prepared to embarrass yourself?

If you are going to be a writer who makes an impact with your words, you need to be able to deal with embarrassment. If you try to avoid ever being embarrassed, you will stay within your comfort zones and never achieve your goals. You may think and dream about writing but never do it because you’re afraid of other people’s opinions.

You should never compromise your writing because you fear what others will think of you. Words have power and as a writer, you may have to challenge people and make them think.  This sometimes makes them uncomfortable and they will react.  Their reaction means you are probably achieving your purpose and you need to continue rather than back off. It can be scary when what you write is contrary to majority opinion. You cannot compromise because you want to be accepted and feeling foolish or embarrassed may be an essential part of your journey.

11. Do you want to make money writing?

If your main reason for wanting to write is to make money, you shouldn’t even think about it. There are definitely easier ways to make money. Perhaps you are thinking of all those other benefits too like flexible hours and being your own boss. Unless you are passionate about the writing itself, you are likely to fall by the wayside. It’s far better to do your best and start putting your writing out there without initially focusing on how much money you are going to make. There is some truth to the idea that if you do what you love, the money will come.

There is nothing wrong with making money from your writing.  It’s much easier to do this today with all the potential to make money online. There are plenty of people making a good living from writing and wanting to support yourself or your family through writing is a worthwhile goal. However, if your focus is only on making money, this goal may be elusive. Readers are more perceptive today than ever before and they can tell when you are are trying to take their money without offering them true value. The life of a writer has never been the most stable occupation although it can be incredibly rewarding in many ways, including financially.

12. If you only had a year left to live, would you spend it writing?

None of us like to think about our own mortality but thinking about this question may help you to zero in on what’s truly important to you. People who have had a near death experience often have a greater sense of direction and purpose afterwards.  My father felt a sense of urgency to begin writing two years before he died. He had never even voiced a desire to write before. He managed to finish his book, leaving behind a legacy of his words.  If you imagine life going on without you, what would you want to leave behind? If you want to leave a legacy of words then you have to take action. It’s often only once you have started taking action that you begin to get more clarity and discover what your true passion.


The best shampoo for gray hair

Touch of Silver

Deciding to go gray can be liberating but for it to look its best, you do need to change your hair care routine. Products that are specially formulated for gray hair can make a huge difference. A silver/purple shampoo is essential if, like me, your gray hair easily develops a yellow tinge.

Why does gray hair develop a yellow tinge?

Hair goes gray as the follicles stop producing melanin. Without pigment, it is more porous and tends to show the colours of all the foreign stuff it picks up. This may be from water (from the shower or swimming pool) or pollutants in the air. The chlorine in water can make gray hair look dry, brittle, and yellowish. Residue from hair care products can also cause yellowing. I have personally found that when I use too much heat to straighten my hair, it immediately looks more yellow. Gray hair is more vulnerable to sun damage as well and your medication, food and  general health can also affect your hair.

Get rid of the yellow

All the experts suggest using a purple shampoo to get rid of the yellow tinge. If you know anything about colour mixing, you will know that a purple tone counteracts a yellow tone.  The purple pigment in the shampoo clings to the hair shaft and neutralizes the yellow.

… but don’t turn it blue

The more porous your hair, the more a product “takes”. Sometimes the ends are more porous than the roots and your tips may end up a little blue. When using a purple shampoo, you need to follow the directions carefully leave the product on your hair for the correct length of time.

I use my purple shampoo every other day and in between I use a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner.

A few home remedies

I can’t guarantee the results you will get using these home remedies.  I am all in favour of natural products but in this case I must say that using a  silver shampoo is easier and I have found the results more consistent than when trying natural remedies. Nevertheless, if you object to the sulfates in shampoos and would rather try some natural options, here are a few:

  • Gentian Violet: We’ve all seen grandmothers with their snow white hair who used Gentian Violet to achieve this result.  We’ve also seen those who left the Gentian Violet on a little too long and ended up with blue hair. Gentian Violet definitely works to neutralize the yellow but  you have to be extremely careful or it will stain everything from your hands to your clothes, the bathroom tiles, the sink and your scalp. I would be super careful when putting drops into my shampoo but I still managed to spill. On one of our camping trips,  I stupidly took along my whole bottle of gentian violet – the lid of the bottle came off and stained everything in my toiletry bag and the floor of the tent bright purple.
  • Vinegar and Baking Soda:  Pour 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar into a spray bottle and dilute with a cup of water. Make a baking soda paste with 2tbsp. of baking soda and 2 tbsp. of water and rub the paste onto hair. Rinse it off carefully and then spray on the apple cider mixture, fully saturating your hair.  Comb through hair and then rinse thoroughly.
  • Hydrogen Peroxide: Mix equal amounts of 3% hydrogen peroxide, water and your conditioner in a spray bottle and spray your clean, damp hair with this mixture. Comb through and leave on for about 15 minutes before rinsing. Repeat once a week to prevent build-up. When I tried this I found that it worked but despite the conditioner, it tended to dry out my hair.
  • Purple flower infusions: Purple flowers like Betony or Hollyhocks can be infused in hot water until the water becomes purple. A concentrated infusion makes a strong purple colour. You will need to use an infusion like this regularly for it to be effective.

My favourite silver shampoo

PRO-VOKE Touch of Silver is a salon-inspired product that tones, brightens and adds vibrancy to my white hair. I use it every second day and despite the frequent use (the recommendation is to use it twice a week) my hair remains gloriously white without any blue hue. It is also relatively inexpensive and I find it a much easier option than when I added Gentian Violet to my normal shampoo. Although my shower is covered in purple streaks after using this shampoo, at least they are easily washed away.  It is more liquid than some other shampoos but it foams well and has a pleasant, grapelike smell.  A pre-toning primer (applied before shampooing) and intensive conditioner are also available in the Pro-Voke range.  

Provoke Touch of Silver


  • Inexpensive
  • effective
  • foams well
  • pleasant smell
  • a little goes a long way


  • may stain porous surfaces
  • contains sulfates
  • cannot be used for two weeks after perming, bleaching or dying

A yellowish tinge to white hair is very unappealing whereas a dazzling, well styled head of white hair is a crown of glory. What is your favourite shampoo to keep your gray hair looking great?



What are the signs of infidelity in marriage?

hand and ring

What are the signs of infidelity in marriage? This is a question that crosses the mind of anyone who suspects a spouse might be having an affair. The reason I am writing about this topic is that I was blind to the signs. If I had identified them earlier, perhaps the outcome would have been different. Unfortunately, there is no formula when it comes to finding out whether a spouse is cheating. However, if any of the following five signs are evident, I suggest it is better to address the situation than to live in ignorance. You are living in a fake bubble that is bound to burst at some point anyway.

There are always clues

There is an assumption that a cheating husband will always leave some clues. If you do not pick up on them, you are thought to be naïve or that you are turning a blind eye. The fact is that some partners are very good at concealing an affair. They become very good liars.  You may also subconsciously ignore the signs because you don’t want to believe what is happening. Few spouses will come home with obvious signs of having been with another person, like a lipstick smear on a shirt. The clues are usually far more subtle.  However, hiding an affair is not that easy, particularly for any length of time. There are always clues.

1. Emotional distance

One of the strongest clues is when a partner becomes emotionally distant or distracted. It’s very difficult to maintain emotional intimacy with someone you are busy betraying. People who cheat feel guilty. They are trying to keep something from you so they can’t afford to let their guard drop. They are afraid that you will guess their secret so they have to keep their distance.

My ex was working away from home for a long period and I asked one day “Are we still okay?” He insisted that we were fine. I then jokingly threw in “… as long as there isn’t another woman”. He immediately said he had to go and pretended he hadn’t heard. I must have really been in denial as I still didn’t believe he was having an affair. As we had been physically apart for some time, I hadn’t realized how emotionally distant he had become.

2. Secretive behavior

Unexplained, secretive behaviour or changes to normal routines could mean there is something to hide. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are there occasions when your spouse works long hours, has to go on business trips, often goes to see male friends or suddenly starts going to gym every day?
  • Does your partner terminate a session or close open windows on the computer when you come into the room?  Does he/she regularly delete browser history? Does he or she suddenly have new passwords unknown to you for devices?
  • Does your partner keep a cell phone close at hand at all times and often go outside to take calls? Of course, your partner may even have a second cell phone to communicate with the other person.
  • Is your partner’s phone turned off at times when you should have been able to get through? There are periods where you don’t know where your spouse is and you don’t get a proper explanation of why there has been no response to a call or a text.
  • Have you found a secret credit card or a receipt for unexplained items?  Your partner may come up with an explanation if confronted but it cannot always be believed.

3. Attitude changes

When your significant other is overly defensive, and it’s out of character, this could be an indicator of guilt.   Remarks like “I was playing squash with John and you can call him if you don’t believe me” are typical.  When a spouse who has always been patient and understanding becomes critical of you or angry with you, this is another telltale sign.  A silly example in my case was that I have always read in bed at night before falling asleep. I did this for years and my ex was always tolerant of this because he understood that it helped me to fall asleep.  Suddenly, he started voicing his irritation, saying that the light was bothering him.  If your spouse is criticizing you over issues that were previously unimportant, he/she is probably focusing on your flaws to justify the cheating.

4. Physical intimacy changes

Has your spouse stopped showing you those small signs of affection that may have been common before? If these gestures have disappeared, it could be a sign of deeper issues. Have there been any changes in your sex life? Of course It is possible to have physical intimacy while emotional intimacy is lacking. However, your routines and other aspects of your sex life may be different. For example, your spouse may suddenly want to have more sex, less sex or none at all.

5. Physical appearance changes

Changes to physical appearance are a possible sign that another person is in the picture. Has your partner suddenly lost weight, bought new clothes or developed new grooming habits?

Trust your instincts

You will often realize intuitively when a spouse is having an affair. You will probably pick up on subtle signals even if you are not consciously aware of them.  Maybe you just have a gut feeling. Obviously, you don’t just want to come out and accuse your partner. A few of the above signs does not necessarily mean that your partner is having an affair. A change in weight and exercising habits could be entirely innocent. However, if you have noticed a combination of signs and instinctively feel that something is going on, it’s time to talk.

Have the talk

If you are convinced that your partner is having an affair, you must try to talk about it. Being upfront about it is not easy. However, honesty and openness paves the way to easing your fears or confirming your suspicions.  It is better to face it head on. Too many partners of cheating spouses are unwilling to face up to the unwelcome truth.

This is not an easy conversation to have so you need to choose the right time and place. You don’t want it to turn into an angry confrontation. Try not to start off by being judgemental or your partner will immediately become defensive. You can voice your concerns about your relationship and see if your partner is willing to talk about them. Couples counseling may be helpful if your partner still wants to work on the relationship.

My philosophy is that it’s always better to know the truth. Even if it is shattering, at least it rips away the veil of lies and deception. You deserve true intimacy with your partner. When that has gone, you have to both have a desire to work hard to restore it.  If a partner is no longer committed to working on the relationship, a divorce may be the only option. If a partner feels remorse about an affair and truly wants to work on the marriage, it still has a chance of survival.

Ageing disgracefully

Do you still wear what you think you should wear, act how you think you should act or live how you think you should live just because you have reached a certain age? If so, you are missing out.  Perhaps you need a little dose of aging disgracefully.

I have always wanted to age gracefully, accepting the gray hair and the extra lines that come with it. I don’t want to go through every phase of the ageing process kicking and screaming. However, this does not mean that I want to quietly surrender to it either. I still want to stick out my tongue at it and defy its limitations.

I have always loved the poem by Jenny Joseph ‘When I am old’ that talks about wearing purple with a red hat that doesn’t go.  The poem captures that sense of liberation that comes with no longer caring about what other people think of you. Wearing purple with a red hat is not that daring today.  These days older women go skydiving and swim with sharks.

getting ready to segwayI haven’t died my hair purple or learned to spit but I do seem to have developed a thirst for adventure. I recently took up mountain biking and when I race along with the wind in my hair, I feel the exact same delight I remember feeling many, many moons ago when I was young and carefree.  When I went segwaying along a wilderness path recently, I gloried in the ability of my body to balance as I maneuvered over bumps and navigated through ditches. I followed my younger sister into icy cold sea water – there’s nothing like an icy dip to invigorate you and make you feel alive. Perhaps my adventures may seem very tame to some but for me they are out of my comfort zone and enough to put a spring in my step.

Life is precious and unexpected and it can throw you many a curved ball. Just when you are making plans, life happens.  At the age of 60 today, we still have a good chance of living another 20 odd years. Unfortunately, we can’t know what our last years will be like.  Even if we make every effort to stay healthy and try to minimize the risk factors, we may still have to face some harsh realities. We can give up smoking, drink in moderation, eat healthily and exercise regularly.  This goes a long way towards reducing risks but it does not guarantee that we remain healthy in body or mind. Some of the healthiest people I know have succumbed to diseases like cancer.  Life sometimes forces situations upon us that are hard to bear. However, if we focused only on our eventual mental and physical decline, it would make most of us want to jump off a cliff. I would rather focus on the joy of living instead and face each phase of ageing with as much of a sense of humour as possible.

ageing with attitudeI recently went on a day trip to visit some open gardens with my mother and some of her friends. One of them is an old lady of 93. Her body may be frail but her mind is still as sharp as a tack.  She calls her walking stick Alfred and introduced Alfred to everyone we met. At one stage she shouted “Old age is a bugger, isn’t it!” as she struggled up a rise in the path. Her wit and enthusiasm allowed her to get away with jumping queues and getting special treatment everywhere we went.  I felt sad when she said this would most likely be her last visit to the gardens. She was simply being realistic and it seemed to make her all the more determined to enjoy every last moment while she still could. She was a great example to me of the fact that it is your attitude rather than your age that defines you.

So gobble up all those free samples, run barefoot across the park, skinny dip in rock pools and tick off some of those adventures on your bucket list while you still can.




Zambesia Botanica skin cream review – sausage tree cream

Inspiration for the name of Zambesia Botanica came from the Zambesi River, the fourth largest river in Africa, where the Kigelia Africana (sausage tree) grows along its bank. This tree is found in South, Central and West Africa. It is called the  ‘sausage tree’  because of its huge sausage-shaped fruits that hang from long stalks. The bark, roots and fruit of this tree have long been used by Africans for everything from digestive and respiratory disorders to treating infections and wounds. As more clinical trials are taking place, they are confirming the many medicinal properties of the sausage tree.

The brand

The Zambesia Botanica brand came into being due to a personal experience of the healing properties of the Kigelia Africa tree.  Derek Mann had suffered from psoriasis for over 45 years. On a business trip to Africa, the local remedy was recommended to him by a doctor.  He was so impressed with the results that he asked Ming Majoe, a pharmacist and director of AE Hobbs, a retail pharmacy,  to investigate its medicinal properties and uses. They began selling a range of skin care products called Zambesia Botanica as a result of this investigation.

Scent and Texture

There is a very slight, earthy scent to the cream which is not unpleasant. It has a smooth, creamy texture.


It always wise to Initially apply it to a small area to test for any irritation. Sensitivity to this product is rare but but can occur with any product. It is easy to apply and disappears quickly as it is absorbed by the skin.


Aqua, Kigelia africana, petrolatum,cocos nucifera (coconut), prunus amygdalus dulcis (almond oil), cera alba,polysorbate 60, cetearyl alcohol, sorbitan stearate, phenoxy ethanol, methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, disodium EDTA.

All ingredients are from non-animal sources. The addition of coconut and almond oil make this cream particularly suited to very dry skin.

What does it do?

The cream is absorbed into the skin and starts to repair it at a cellular level.

Conditions, firms and heals

The Tonga women of the Zambezi Valley regularly apply Kigelia Africana to their faces to improve their complexions. Several scientific studies in recent years have established that it reduces inflammation and stimulates healing. It also helps to improve skim firmness and elasticity as the active ingredients stabilize and strengthen the collagen fibers supporting the skin.


psoriasisPsoriasis is a problem where the skin turnover rate is much faster than normal. Sufferers have noticed that using Kigelia Africana can dramatically improve this condition over time.  It appears to ‘damp down’ overactive cell growth. It is even effective for treating those who have suffered from psoriasis for many years, such as Derek Mann who had suffered for over 45 years.


People with atopic eczema often have very dry skin and the dryness makes it more likely to react to triggers that make it red and itchy. This cream has a soothing effect on the dryness, flakiness and redness.

Dr K. Findlay of Rusthall testifies on Zambesia Botanica’s website saying “Thank you for your help and information regarding Zambesia Botanica. I have a patient who is a seven month old baby. When he was approximately two months old, he suffered from bad exzema on his face, his head, his body, his arms and around his neck. We have tried lots of different creams and emollients to try and help this. Unfortunately, it is a persisting problem. For the past month, his mum has been using Zambesia Botanica. She started using it twice a day, and now uses it four times a day and has noticed a vast improvement.”

Katy says “Probably the best thing I have ever found! I had eczema as a child, I am now 26 and still sometimes get it. My parents came across this, and it literally seemed to kill it off, I had years of my parents trying everything else possible, and this was the only thing that ever worked. I will always recommend this to anyone with any type of skin problems!”

Age spots and sun damage

In 2000 researchers at Kings College in London took crude extracts of the bark and fruit and isolated components that were found to have cell-destroying effects on melanoma cells. Dr Peter Houghton, a biochemist of Kings College in London said that the product is “active against various cancer lines and melanoma cells”. In 2009, authors Olatunji A. Gabriel and Atolani Olubunmi published an article  on the use of Kigelia Africana as a viable medicinal plant and said “It has a high potential for development into viable drugs as more facts emanate from its uses, especially as a strong anti-cancer agent.”

MH says “This cream was recommended to me by a lady who had lived in Zimbabwe for 30 years. she used it for sun damaged skin. I used the cream as advised and a small area of sun damaged skin on my nose has disappeared after 3 weeks. It is also working on a similar area on my leg. I would advise getting a check by a doctor as well, but this cream has certainly done the trick for me.”

My personal experience

I have personally used Zambesia Botanica for the past two months on my seborheic keratosis. I found that with three applications a day for two months, it was completely healed. Instead of an ugly growth on my skin, it was clear and smooth.

Seborrheic keratosis is a common type of skin problem that first appears in middle age or later. These growths can look quite ugly and appear almost anywhere on the skin. The fact that they are unsightly may cause some worry but they are benign. Keratosis is an excessive growth of keratin, a skin protein, and there are different types such as solar keratosis and seborheic keratosis.

A diagnosis

seborrheic keratosisI have had several rough, brown patches on my back for years but was never really concerned about them – I couldn’t even see them unless I made an effort. Recently my daughter caught a glimpse of one of them and she didn’t like the look of it. She took a photo of it with her cell phone and showed it to me. I agreed with her – it didn’t look good. I went to my GP who took a close look and said “I have good news and bad news. The good news is that it’s not a melanoma. The bad news is that it’s a seborrheic keratosis. I can ‘freeze’ it for you but you already have quite a few and you are only going to get more”. As I walked out of his office he called after me “They are also called ‘senile warts”. In my case, my GP was able to diagnose a seborreic keratosis just by looking at it. If he had any doubt, I know he would have referred me to a dermatologist.

No-one knows the precise cause of these growths. Some people seem to inherit a tendency to develop a large number of them.  I remembered that as he grew older, the skin on father’s back was covered with huge, warty patches and his sister had the same problem.

What does a seborreic keratosis look like?

It most likely starts as a small, rough bump. The bump slowly thickens and starts to develop a wart-like appearance. These bumps range in color from skin coloured to light brown, dark brown and black. Several of mine even have a mix of colors and this is apparently normal. They look as though they are pasted onto the skin and some are described as looking like a dab of candle wax and others like barnacles. I have a few that look exactly like candle wax but most of mine look far more like barnacles.  They are crusty rather than waxy and dark in colour. The one my daughter was concerned about was roughly 1cm in diameter.

Using Zambesia Botanica

keratosisThe ‘sausage tree’ cream was given to me by a friend but I was sceptical and it stayed in my medicine cabinet. However, when I developed a skin-coloured warty lump on my face,  I decided to give it a serious try. I began applying it three times a day. At first I was quite disturbed about the results. It became uglier, rougher and browner. I decided to just keep going as it was obviously having some kind of effect. After about two weeks of applying it every day, my mother and sister kept telling me they were concerned about it and I questioned whether it was improving. After another month of assiduous application, I began to notice a distinct difference. The patch started to shed pieces and became smaller and smaller, eventually resembling a small spot on my skin and then disappearing altogether. I was totally blown away. My experience made me want to find out more about what made it so effective and I realized that I had discovered what the indigenous people of Africa have known for centuries and what researchers have discovered more recently –  sausage tree extract definitely has healing qualities. I am going to start using it on the patches on my back as well now. They are harder to reach but at least I may be able to prevent suffering the same fate as my father.

The good:

It targets the causes of skin conditions without the harmful effects associated with the long-term use of other systemic medications, like steroids. Sausage Tree Cream targets the metabolic processes that cause skin conditions and thus provides long lasting results.

  • Soothing
  • Non-greasy
  • Free of lanolin
  • Does not stain
  • Not messy
  • Easy to apply
  • Safe to use for all ages

The bad:

  • Costly
  • Takes time
  • Possible sensitivities

Where can you get it?

It is available from the Zambesia Botanica website.

Zambesia Botanica Skin Cream Extra 50ml is also available on Amazon.com.

Zambesia Botanica

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The Tools: Book Review

reversal of desire

The book Tools by Phil Stutz and Barry Michels is aptly named as it offers five life tools or techniques to unlock our potential. Phil Stutz is a psychiatrist and Barry Michels a psychotherapist and they have many years of experience between them. At the heart of this book is their belief that we have the ability to solve our problems by using tools to connect us with a world of limitless forces.

In the introductory chapter, Barry Michels describes his frustration as a young practicing psychotherapist. He had come to the realization that encouraging his patients to talk endlessly about past trauma wasn’t giving them any relief in the present day. When he met Dr. Phil Stutz this changed.  He began to learn from him and apply certain tools Stutz had developed over the years.

All five tools are clearly explained and simple to apply. In each chapter, stories about patients like Vinny, a talented but self-destructive stand-up comic, help to drive home how well the tools work. Each chapter ends with frequently asked questions and a helpful summary.

Summary of the Tools

The first tool is called “The Reversal of Desire”.   We tend to barricade ourselves behind an invisible wall and don’t venture out because beyond the wall is pain. This safe space is our ‘comfort zone’.  Life provides us with endless possibilities but along with them comes pain.  People who refuse to live limited lives drive through the pain and experience the possibilities. What gives them the strength to do this their sense of purpose. What they do in the present, no matter how painful, has meaning in terms of what they want for the future. The force this tool activates is the “Force of Forward Motion”. This force is the power of life itself.

The second tool is “Active Love”. The force it releases is “Outflow”. Outflow is an infinite spiritual force that gives of itself without restraint.  The work that we do when we use this tool is to create a miniature flow of love inside us that puts us in sync with the Outflow.  This tool is used whenever someone enrages or provokes us.  In using it, we need to take three steps: concentration (gathering up love), transmission (conduct it) and penetration (feel it enter the other person). Every time we feel wronged, we have a choice. We can do nothing and enter a maze where we replay what the person did and become trapped in the past or we can use “Active Love” to unify ourselves with the “Outflow”, and move on with our lives, free of anger and hurt.

The next tool is all about finding confidence and inner authority.  The tool is “Inner Authority” and the higher force is the “Force of Self-Expression”.  Inside all of us is a Shadow we are ashamed of and that we can never get rid of no matter how hard we try. The Shadow is defined by the authors as ‘everything we don’t want to be but fear we are, represented in a single image’.  Our reaction to our Shadow is to turn away and look outside of ourselves for validation. The trouble is that no amount of validation from outside works in the long term. When our Shadow is brought out of hiding and we bond with it and speak with one voice, we are able to speak with authority. Human connection is made possible because the Shadow is the part we all share and without it we exaggerate our differences from others and feel separate from them.

The fourth tool is used to create peace of mind. When we worry all the time or have negative thoughts, we create a negative energy that hangs over us like a cloud. The sun is still shining but when we are under that black cloud, it’s as though it doesn’t exist. This is when we need to use the tool “The Grateful Flow” and release the higher force of “Gratefulness”.  We need to pick out things in our lives we can be grateful for – particularly those we normally take for granted.  In this state we are able to penetrate the black cloud and make connection with ‘the Source’, the power of infinite giving. In the material world, whatever we gain we can also lose so peace of mind never lasts for long. For peace of mind to be lasting, it has to come from an ongoing connection to the Source.

The fifth and final tool called “Jeopardy” helps us to build unstoppable “willpower”.  This is the tool that makes us keep using the other tools. We usually feel a sense of urgency when we’re in jeopardy of losing something important: a job, a relationship, physical safety.  To develop willpower, we need to find a permanent source of “Jeopardy” and the only thing we’re at risk of losing every moment is our future. Imagining our own death is a powerful reminder that there are only so many moments in our lives and every moment is priceless. We use the distractions of consumerism to avoid facing our fears.  Using “Jeopardy” breaks through our denial and turns our fear into an urgency to act. That urgency ignites our willpower.

What I liked about the book

The ideas behind most of these tools are not new. Pushing through pain to get to possibilities is a familiar concept to many, There’s nothing new about exuding love either. The idea of the Shadow is a familiar concept in psychology and Carl Jung’s work in this area is well known. Many people have realized that being constantly grateful can have a profound effect on their lives. Even the concept of imagining your death to give your life more purpose is far from revolutionary.  However, although these ideas are not new, the way they are put together and linked to higher forces, creates an entirely new perspective.

I also liked the fact that these tools seemed to work as more than just an ‘attitude adjustment’. They changed the behaviour of the patients who used them.  I think anyone who actually put them into practice and maintained this for a while would inevitably see changes in their lives.  The authors say they wrote the book with this in mind and have even created an app to help people apply the tools.

The authors describe ‘The Source’ as the force that created us and remains intimately involved with our wellbeing.  They espouse a new spirituality where external forces, like authority figures,  institutions or ceremonies no longer define spirituality for us. They have lost their influence through corruption, paralysis, or irrelevance. Individuals need to be empowered to replace them and change our society that lacks faith and purpose. They see personal problems as driving spiritual evolution and as we learn to embrace adversity, our relationship with higher forces is deepened. This was an interesting way of looking at the state of society and spirituality today and how it could be changed.

What I did not like

As a believer in God, I did not like the watered down terminology. The authors said readers could substitute the terms ‘higher forces’ and ‘The Source’ with other terms such as God but this felt like somewhat of a compromise. I think what they said would have had more impact if they had been more direct.

I could imagine how readers from an atheistic or scientific viewpoint would battle with supernatural aspect of the book. How can you release higher forces if you don’t believe in them? However, Michels himself came from an atheistic background and when he doggedly applied the tools, he found that his belief system changed.

I didn’t much like the cartoon-like, labelled diagrams. I decided to create my own diagrams based on their examples.

Some of the language used in the exercises made me want to scream but for all the wrong reasons.  “See the pain appear in front of you as a cloud. Scream silently at the cloud, ‘BRING IT ON!’ … Then, “Scream silently, ‘I LOVE PAIN!’ … as you leave the cloud, feel yourself propelled forward into a realm of pure light.”  I just couldn’t see myself doing this.

I personally did not like the use of the word ‘jeopardy’ for the final tool. This tool involved using a deathbed perspective to create an urgency not to waste the present.  Vinny makes a quip in the book “Doc, in a million years I would never have guessed the secret to happiness: just think about death all day.” I  found imagining my own death all the time was too difficult for me. I understood what this tool was meant to do but unfortunately in practice is just did not work for me.

My final word

I believe that these tools can work if they are applied consistently.  However, I do think that it is difficult to keep on applying them. The last tool is the one that apparently helps you to continue applying all the others. My failure with this tool probably explains why I didn’t have the willpower to persist with the others although I did try! Perhaps you will have more success than me. You can purchase the book on Amazon.